This month's selection of leisure reading chosen by the Journal's Book Review Editor

Katie Fforde (Century: £16.99; e-book £6.39)

If you have just sat through the last series of Masterchef wondering why on earth the contestants put themselves through it all, this book might provide one or two suggestions. Zoe is a keen chef and competitor but she is rapidly sidetracked from her mission to win. She falls under the spell of both Somerby, the crumbling yet cosy country house where the competition is being staged, and Gideon, a fusion of delectable good looks and culinary knowledge. Unfortunately for Zoe, Gideon is one of the judges. I was initially confused by the return to Somerby, which had featured in another of Fforde's novels, but once I was clear in my mind who was who, I soon settled into the story and let the ups and downs entertain me. It's light, sweet and bubbly like a chocolate foam; it won't tax you after a hard day at the office. In fact some might say, it's sunshine on a plate.

Emma Smith (Bloomsbury: £8.99; e-book £6.07)

I once passed underneath Birmingham's spaghetti junction in the middle of the morning rush hour at the helm of a narrowboat and found that even at 4 mph I was the fastest moving vehicle for several miles around. The characters here travel at the same pedestrian speed, and yet are doing their bit for the war effort in the latter years of the Second World War. This is a blend of factual account and fiction and it does well to describe what an 18-year-old could do for her country, transporting steel, coal and cement across the country via the canal network. After three weeks' training they set off with a pair of boats, each 72 feet long, to work long hours in cramped and filthy conditions for little pay. If you don't know a strap from a snubber or a bilge from a butty you'll learn plenty from this, just as Emma and her crew did on the cut.

Gianrico Carofiglio (Bitter Lemon Press: £8.99; e-book £6.23)

No high-tech profiling and massacred victims, but rather the refreshingly human Italian defence counsel Guido Guerrieri, digging into the disappearance of a young student, makes Temporary Perfections by Gianrico Carofiglio a lifelike crime novel worth reading.

Felix Riley (Penguin: £6.99; e-book £3.99)

Set up for murder, former US Secret Service special agent Mike Byrne is struggling to reveal a network of investment fraud, offshore accounts, shadow banks, Ponzi schemes, and betrayal within one of the biggest banks of America. Felix Riley’s The Set-Up gives the reader a fictional but nevertheless illustrative and thrilling insight into the complex world of finances.

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