Q & A / Slumdog Millionaire by Vikas Swarup

Former tiffinboy Ram Mohammad Thomas has just got twelve questions correct on a TV quiz-show to win a cool one billion rupees. But he is brutally slung in prison on suspicion of cheating. Because how can a kid from the slums know who Shakespeare was, unless he is pulling a fast one. In the order of the questions on the show, Ram tells us which incredible adventures in his life on the streets gave him the answers. From orphanages to brothels, gangsters to beggar-masters, and into the homes of Bollywood's rich and famous, Ram's story is brimming with the chaotic comedy, heart-stopping tragedy and tear-inducing joyousness of modern India.

Perfume by Patrick Suskind

'In eighteenth-century France there lived a man who was one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era that knew no lack of gifted and abominable personages. His name was Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, and if his name has been forgotten today, it is certainly not because Grenouille fell short of those more famous blackguards when it came to arrogance, misanthropy, immorality, or, more succinctly, wickedness, but because his gifts and his sole ambition were restricted to a domain that leaves no traces in history: to the fleeting realm of scent . . .'

Mrs Robinson’s Disgrace by Kate Summerscale

When the married Isabella Robinson was introduced to the dashing Edward Lane at a party in 1850, she was utterly enchanted. He was 'fascinating', she told her diary, before chastising herself for being so susceptible to a man's charms. But a wish had taken hold of her, and she was to find it hard to shake... In one of the most notorious divorce cases of the nineteenth century, Isabella Robinson's scandalous secrets were exposed to the world. Kate Summerscale brings vividly to life a frustrated Victorian wife's longing for passion and learning, companionship and love, in a society clinging to rigid ideas about marriage and female sexuality.

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale

It is a summer's night in 1860. In an elegant detached Georgian house in the village of Road, Wiltshire, all is quiet. Behind shuttered windows the Kent family lies sound asleep. At some point after midnight a dog barks. The family wakes the next morning to a horrific discovery: an unimaginably gruesome murder has taken place in their home. The household reverberates with shock, not least because the guilty party is surely still among them. Jack Whicher of Scotland Yard, the most celebrated detective of his day, reaches Road Hill House a fortnight later. He faces an unenviable task: to solve a case in which the grieving family are the suspects. The murder provokes national hysteria. The thought of what might be festering behind the closed doors of respectable middle-class homes - scheming servants, rebellious children, insanity, jealousy, loneliness and loathing - arouses fear and a kind of excitement. But when Whicher reaches his shocking conclusion there is uproar and bewilderment. A true story that inspired a generation of writers such as Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle, this has all the hallmarks of the classic murder mystery - a body; a detective; a country house steeped in secrets. In The Suspicions of Mr Whicher Kate Summerscale untangles the facts behind this notorious case, bringing it back to vivid, extraordinary life.

Balthasar Jones and the Tower of London Zoo by Julia Stuart

Meet Balthazar Jones, Beefeater at the Tower of London. Married to Hebe, he lives and works in the Tower, as he struggles to cope with the tragic death of his son Milo, three years ago. The Tower of London is its own magical world; a maze of ancient buildings, it is home to a weird and wonderful cast of characters - the Jones's of course, as well as Reverend Septimus Drew, the Ravenmaster, and Ruby Dore, landlady of the Tower's very own tavern, the Rack & Ruin. And, after an announcement from Buckingham Palace that the Queen's exotic animals are to be moved from London Zoo to the Tower's grounds, things are about to become a whole lot more interesting… Komodo dragons, marmosets, and even zorillas ('a highly revered yet uniquely odorous skunk-like animal from Africa') fill the Tower's menagerie – and it is Balthazar Jones's job to take care of them. Things run far from smoothly, though – missing penguins and stolen giraffes are just two of his worries! A touching, magical and entirely original debut.

The Earth Hums in B Flat by Mari Strachan

About the book Gwenni Morgan is not like any other girl in this small Welsh town. Inquisitive, bookish and full of spirit, she can fly in her sleep and loves playing detective. So when a neighbour mysteriously vanishes, and no one seems to be asking the right questions, Gwenni decides to conduct her own investigation. She records everything she sees and hears: but are her deductions correct? What is the real truth? And what will be the consequences of finding out, for Gwenni, her family and her community?

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Enter a vanished and unjust world: Jackson, Mississippi, 1962. Where black maids raise white children, but aren't trusted not to steal the silver . . . There's Aibileen, raising her seventeenth white child and nursing the hurt caused by her own son's tragic death; Minny, whose cooking is nearly as sassy as her tongue; and white Miss Skeeter, home from College, who wants to know why her beloved maid has disappeared. Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny. No one would believe they'd be friends; fewer still would tolerate it. But as each woman finds the courage to cross boundaries, they come to depend and rely upon one another. Each is in a search of a truth. And together they have an extraordinary story to tell...

The Almond Blossom Appreciation Society by Chris Stewart

The Good Life goes on at El Valero. Find yourself laughing out loud as Chris is instructed by his daughter on local teenage mores; bluffs his way in art history to millionaire Bostonians; is rescued off a snowy peak by the Guardia Civil; and joins an Almond Blossom Appreciation Society. You'll cringe with Chris as he tries his hand at office work in an immigrants' advice centre in Granada, spurred into action by the arrival of four destitute young Moroccans at El Valero. And you'll never see olive oil in quite the same way again... In this sequel to 'Lemons' and 'Parrot', Chris Stewart's optimism and zest for life is as infectious as ever.

Reamde by Neal Stephenson

Across the globe, millions of computer screens flicker with the artfully coded world of T'Rain - an addictive internet role-playing game of fantasy and adventure. But backstreet hackers in China have just unleashed a contagious virus called Reamde, and as it rampages through the gaming world spreading from player to player - holding hard drives hostage in the process - the computer of one powerful and dangerous man is infected, causing the carefully mediated violence of the on-line world to spill over into reality. A fast-talking, internet-addicted mafia accountant is brutally silenced by his Russian employers, and Zula - a talented young T'Rain computer programmer - is abducted and bundled on to a private jet. As she is flown across the skies in the company of the terrified boyfriend she broke up with hours before, and a brilliant Hungarian hacker who may be her only hope, she finds herself sucked into a whirl of Chinese Secret Service agents and gun-toting American Survivalists; the Russian criminal underground and an al-Qaeda cell led by a charismatic Welshman; each a strand of a connected world that devastatingly converges in T'Rain. An inimitable and compelling thriller that careers from British Columbia to South-West China via Russia and the fantasy world of T'Rain, Reamde is an irresistible epic from the unique imagination of one of today's most individual writers.

Under a Mackerel Sky by Rick Stein

Rick Stein's childhood in 1950s rural Oxfordshire and North Cornwall was idyllic. His parents were charming and gregarious, their five children much-loved and given freedom typical of the time. As he grew older, the holidays were filled with loud and lively parties in his parents' Cornish barn. But ever-present was the unpredicatible mood of his bipolar father, with Rick frequently the focus of his anger and sadness. When Rick was 18 his father killed himself. Emotionally adrift, Rick left for Australia, carrying a suitcase stamped with his father's initials. Manual labour in the outback followed by adventures in America and Mexico toughened up the naive public schoolboy, but at heart he was still lost and unsure what to do with his life. Eventually, Cornwall called him home. From the entrepreneurial days of his mobile disco, the Purple Tiger, to his first, unlikely unlikely nightclub where much of the time was spent breaking up drink-fuelled fights, Rick charts his personal journey in a way that is both wry and perceptive; engaging and witty.