Kate Atkinson – Transcription (Doubleday hardback, £17.00)

Kate Atkinson has already set the bar very high for Second World War novels with Life after Life and God In Ruins, both of which I highly recommend. She returns to this time period for her latest book, Transcription, in which 18-year-old Juliet Spencer is recruited to an obscure department of the Secret Service.

Our heroine’s main duties involve the monitoring on headphones and transcribing of half-heard conversations of UK-based Hitler devotees, plus direct infiltration into a motley group of Nazi-sympathising widows. Without giving too much away, there are twists and turns a-plenty and each page drips with suspense and paranoia. The mark of a good agent is when you have no idea which side they’re on...

Moments of humour abound. Atkinson is the undisputed master at dropping in just the right quote in brackets from characters not currently present, a hugely effective comic technique, plus there are some knowing references to The Archers and one or two other topics related to the BBC, where Juliet later works on Schools programming, and a hilarious day trip with colleague Perry which offers plenty of bird and otter-watching but to Juliet’s disappointment, very little seduction or food.

It is just a huge treat to read Kate Atkinson on such fine form (“Mrs Scaife possessed a large vocabulary of sighs”) and to make it even more of a treat, Doubleday Publishers have supplied Independent Bookshops with an exclusive edition with lush red-tipped pages. Plus we have signed copies too while stocks last.

Reviewed by Tim Curtis, Little Apple Bookshop