The Girl They Left Behind by Roxanne Veletzos. Published by Atria

It’s a freezing January day when a little Jewish girl is left abandoned in Bucharest by her parents. With the Nazis closing in, they hope someone will take in their child and give her a chance at life. Eventually adopted by a wealthy couple and named Natalia, the girl grows up under Communist rule. Her life is not an easy one and she dreams of escaping to the west, a dream she shares with Victor, a young man she works with. Years later, Victor is an official in the Communist Party, but he still wants to help Natalia escape, despite the fact that it will mean certain death if they are caught. So much has been written about the plight of the Jewish people during World War II, much less has been written about those who ended up on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain. An eye-opening read with an appealing heroine

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A Honeybee Heart Has Five Openings by Helen Jukes. Published by Simon and Schuster UK

Tires of the city rat race that has ground her nerves and her very heart and soul into nubs, Jukes takes possession of the gift of a honeybee colony. Folklore says a gift of bees brings good luck, so Jukes decides to slow down, step back and raise her bees for a year. What follows is a lovely meditation into the world of wild, beautiful, creatures. As Jukes learns the basics of beekeeping, she also learns a lot about herself and her relationship with the natural world. I have always loved bees myself, the sight and sound of them as they go about their work, how they return after a bitter, cold winter; there seems something magical about them. While I read this book in one sitting, it would also be a lovely read to spread out, a bit every day to ground readers, relax them and help them celebrate our natural world

The Witch Elm by Tana French. Published by Viking

French takes a break from her Dublin Murder Squad series for this standalone about a man struggling to come to terms with his future while at the same time looking for answers about his family’s past. Toby was just an average guy hen he made the mistake of interrupting a couple of burglars at work, who then beat him viciously and left him for dead, As Toby struggles to recover, he has to face the fact that the beating may have changed him forever. He decides to retreat to his family’s ancestral home where he can lick his wounds while caring for his dying uncle at the same time. When a skull is found in the trunk of an elm tree, the police get involved and Toby finds himself, already on shaky ground, dealing with a truth he may not be able to live with. French is an incredible writer, a woman who uses words like a paintbrush and who can set her readers so firmly inside the worlds she creates that they will forget their own (real) surroundings

First to Die by Alex Caan. Published by Zaffre

The day after a wild Bonfire Night, Kate Riley and Zain Harris are called to investigate the suspicious death of a man dressed as Guy Fawkes. The man hasn’t been strangled, stabbed, shot or pummeled; he’s been attacked by a flesh eating bacteria. A bacteria so dangerous, anyone who came into contact with him must be quarantined. The dead man, a public servant, has plenty of enemies. Could one of them be responsible? As medical professionals work feverishly to find a cure, they begin to vanish, one by one. Riley and Harris have their work cut out for them during their second outing, where they are fighting for the health and safety of the entire public

Kiss Me, Kill Me by J.S. Carol. Published by Zaffre

Before they were married, Zoe thought Dan was the man of her dreams, but after their wedding, Dan becomes controlling and brutal. Zoe has tried to escape but Dan has caught her and brought her back. What can she possibly do? Before you think this is another “woman in peril and can’t save herself” story, think again. Carol plants plenty of surprises and twists for readers who will find themselves wrapped up in a web of deceit

Shelter by Sarah Franklin. Published by Zaffre

In 1944, Connie Granger needs to escape from Coventry, England, which has been hit by a number of German bombing runs. She takes a position with the Women’s Timber Corp., and it’s here in the relative peace and quiet of the forest, that she seems able to put her past behind her. Seppe is an Italian P.O.W. working in the same forest and the two young people find themselves drawn together despite their disparate backgrounds. Is there any chance of them having any sort of future together? Even the present seems precarious as the world goes mad around them. Franklin creates amazingly realistic characters, so realistic, that at times they are hard to like, but then, that is the author’s talent, creating characters that behave like real people in intolerable situations

A Measure of Darkness by Jonathan Kellerman. Published by Ballantine

Clay Edison is deputy coroner for Alameda County and he’s seen and dealt with some pretty harrowing stuff, but nothing prepare him for the carnage he finds after a late night call directs him to a party gone horrible wrong. A dispute with neighbors over noise led to gunfire on both sides with multiple victims. There are so many dead, that it takes a while for Clay to realize that one of the victims is not like the others. Dead from strangulation, not gunshot, the woman has no ID and is unknown to anyone who attended the party. Clay takes it upon himself to identify his Jane Doe and discover how and why she died. Toss in a new relationship and a brother freshly out of jail and Clay has got his work cut out for him