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Red Mandarin Dress by Qiu Xiaolong

Meet the Morse and Lewis of Shanghai in an unusual whodunit. Clever, arty, neurotic Inspector Chen and his practical, down-to-earth sidekick Yu make engaging heroes. I'm not usually a big fan of crime novels but this is a cracker, full of fascinating insights into Shanghai life. I got a real sense of the characters' lives: where they live, what they wear and, especially, what they eat - both droolingly delicious and gruesomely disgusting. A sumptuous Chinese banquet of a novel.

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Lottery by Patricia Wood

This is my feelgood read of the year. A delightful tale of Perry - who is not retarded, just slow, as he tells everyone - and his lottery win. The story never ducks the hard bits, but Perry still comes out smiling.

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The Electric Church by Jeff Somers

This fast-paced easy-read book will appeal to sci-fi fans and more. Living in a grim, realistic future, ruthless assassin Avery Cates boasts that he has killed 26 times in his 27 years and is fast adding to his tally. A mesmerising plot absorbs and entices you to empathise with Cates, the homicidal 'good guy'. With language and settings that are truly nitty-gritty, you are left in no doubt that Cates is a man with definite beliefs.

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