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Setting some lofty New Year’s reading goals? So’s Caius . . .

In The Other Half, DI Caius Beauchamp stumbles across the body of missing socialite, Instagrammer and budding photographer Clemmie O’Hara on a morning run and is confronted with more than a corpse.

He’s faced with an impossible world of titles, minor drug habits, Oxford Classics degrees, excessive champagne consumption and the ignored ghosts of Britain’s colonial past. Caius, an idealist and a millennial, has just been dumped by his girlfriend and is on a ‘journey of self-improvement’ with half a thought of getting her back. He’s now on first-name terms with the staff at the local library and reading all the classic novels that he couldn’t quite be bothered to read before. Here is a select list of some of the books he picks up:

The Odyssey (Homer, translated by Emily Wilson)

Caius went to a state school, ergo cannot read dead languages, but he is well aware that this is where Western civilisation supposedly began. He picks up this translation because he’s glanced over a review in the Guardian saying it lacked the misogyny of previous ones.

Mythos, Stephen Fry

Caius also picks up Stephen Fry’s retelling of the Greek myths in case he finds The Odyssey too dry. He used to watch QI all the time as a teenager and has a soft spot for Fry after watching the odd rerun of Jeeves and Wooster as a kid.

Persuasion, Jane Austen

A very pretty, clever woman said it was her favourite book.

Cook, Eat, Repeat, Nigella Lawson

Caius likes to eat, and he likes to eat well. As part of his new regime, he is a bit too into finding obscure ingredients and trying to cook more food from scratch – any excuse really to follow Nigella on socials. Caius is not sure if he wants to marry Nigella, or be adopted by her.

Poems, Wilfred Owen

Caius’s ex-girlfriend Héloise is a Parisienne poet who makes definitive statements like ‘The English are out of touch with the poetic history,’ so he decides to pick up a volume and happens across Wilfred Owen, vaguely remembering a poem from school. It devastates him.

Scoop, Evelyn Waugh

Caius finds the gutter press salacious and hates how they sensationalise the death of Clemmie O’Hara. He tries not to read the articles written about the cases he’s working but it is inescapable. Caius has seen Lost in Translation and knows that Evelyn Waugh is not a woman. He picked up Scoop up because it’s a slimmer volume than Brideshead Revisited and is glad to see the press made fun of.

Empireland, Sathnam Sanghera

Caius’s mother’s family is Irish and his father’s is Jamaican; different islands, same coloniser. He has an Irish passport and the surname of a slave owner.

The Establishment, Owen Jones

Caius thinks he should get to grips with how power operates in this country, since he’s part of the establishment machine now – albeit as a cog that complains about racist colleagues and as a result gets the cold shoulder at the Christmas party.

Social Class in the 21st Century, Mike Savage

Caius isn’t exactly sure what class he’s in. His father was a builder and he’s a policeman, but through a property-owning fluke his family aren’t exactly struggling. He’s obviously not a baronet with a Tudor manor in the Chilterns. He thinks he may just be middle class now. It feels comfortable and boring.

Caius picks up any worthy-looking title that he sees. He may read it or it may end up as a doorstop if it’s too dry. Dickens, Trollope, Hemingway. He realises that most of these books are by dead old white men, a matter he’ll redress once there are no more socialites-cum-Instagrammers found dead under bushes in Hampstead Heath.

Charlotte Vassell’s debut novel The Other Half is out now.
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Charlotte Vassell
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Agatha Christie meets Made in Chelsea in this bitingly funny police procedural packed with the suspense, wit, and energy of Knives Out