Martin Geraghty (Crooked Cat, £7.99)

The debut novel from a Glasgow-based private investigator, A Mind Polluted charts a young man’s sad and disturbing deterioration. At the age of 13, Connor Boyd overhears his mother saying that she wishes she’d had an abortion as Connor was the only reason she’d stayed with her deadbeat husband. After this revelation, his resentment towards her grows and festers, and he starts acting up at school and getting involved with petty crime, until a nasty incident seems to draw a line under his wayward behaviour. But in reality, college, a job and a girlfriend have done little to quell his anger or raise his self-esteem, and he continues on a downward spiral. As the author admits, it could have used the firm hand of an editor, and shows signs of a first-time novelist trying too hard. But Connor’s story, partly inspired by the murder of MP Jo Cox, is horrifyingly compelling and Geraghty portrays his mental state with a keen understanding.


S.J. Naudé (Salt, £9.99)

Into a mid-1980s London of Thatcherism, post-punk, Aids, anti-apartheid campaigning and general greyness comes Etienne, a 22-year-old South African who has fled his homeland to avoid conscription and escape his homophobic father. He finds love there, meeting a taboo-breaking German artist named Axel while living in run-down squats and studying film. When Etienne discovers the first of three reels of an obscure German film from the 1930s, he becomes determined to find the other two. His quest takes him to pre-unification Berlin, where Axel has disappeared and where Etienne finds evidence of a group of Jewish filmmakers who operated during the Nazi era. Naudé’s second novel is a multi-layered work that delves deeply into the themes of identity and love, in which Etienne’s quest for truth becomes an exploration of himself and ultimately draws him back to the land of his birth. This is an outstanding, accomplished novel with both literary depth and a powerful emotional charge.


Gerda Stevenson (Luath Press, £9.99)

Although well established as an actress and playwright, Gerda Stevenson only brought out her first book of poetry in 2013. For her to follow that up with a project as ambitious as Quines must have taken a great deal of confidence and determination, and it’s been entirely worth it. Quines is an inspiring collection, celebrating Scottish women throughout the ages. There are nearly 60 poems here, her subjects ranging from queens to fish-gutters and, chronologically, from a 5000-year-old reconstructed head in a Shetland museum to the only recently departed Tessa Ransford of the Scottish Poetry Library. The challenge of writing so many poems on a theme and keeping them all distinct from each other is a mammoth undertaking, but Stevenson is more than up to the task, taking on a variety of styles, voices and perspectives. The finished work is not only an absorbing and uplifting book but educational too, shining a light on many “firsts” and remarkable achievements.