Everyone Knows But You: A Tale of Murder on the Maine Coast by Thomas E. Ricks

The author is a first-rate military historian (his best-known book is Fiasco, a history of the early days of the Iraq War), and his first crime novel reflects the skills of a terrific storyteller with a keen eye for both character and plot. Just after losing his family in a horrifc car crash, F.B.I. agent Ryan Tapia is assigned to Bangor, Maine, where the discovery of a dead fisherman leads to an inquiry into the illegal trades of drugs and, yes, rare fish. Thomas E. Ricks lives part-time in Maine, and his knowledge of the terrain and people of that hauntingly beautiful state helps make for a heartfelt thriller.

The Countryside: Ten Rural Walks Through Britain and Its Hidden History of Empire by Corinne Fowler

London has its charms, but to fully appreciate Britain, a pair of hiking boots and a map are needed to explore the best of what the country offers. Corinne Fowler provides 10 rural itineraries, but with a twist: she illustrates how much these beautiful hills and fields owe to Britain’s colonial past. Cornwall, for example, has been shaped by its copper industry (by 1800, a third of its workers were employed in the business), and the metal was key in sheathing slave ships. As for that Mughal palace, which still stands in Gloucestershire, in the Cotswolds? Built with all the money made by a family that worked for the East India Company and saw the house as a badge of honor, even though even by then, in the early 1800s, the firm had a dodgy reputation. Countryside in no way derides the beauty of these rural routes, but it offers a historical context that is so fascinating that you can read it in your slippers sitting at home.

City of Light, City of Shadows: Paris in the Belle Époque by Michael Rapport

Can there be too many books about Paris? Absolutely not, as Michael Rapport proves in this wondrous history of the city’s Belle Époque, which stretches from the late 19th century to the outbreak of World War I. Yes, these were the years that saw the building of the Eiffel Tower and Sacré-Coeur, a time when the Art Nouveau movement blossomed, but beneath the glittery surfaces were slums, gangs, disease, and that most pernicious of ills, anti-Semitism. Rapport brings to vibrant life what it was like to inhabit those times, and brilliantly traces what we see in Paris today to the tumult of the Belle Époque. As he quotes the Scottish planner Patrick Geddes, who knew Paris well, “A city is more than a place in space, it is a drama in time.”

Jim Kelly is the Books Editor at AIR MAIL