When my 's grandmother downsized, I was invited to rescue any books she was shedding from her sizeable collection. This led to a random assortment of older volumes leaping onto my shelves that I would never otherwise have heard of (or acquired) – this is one; others include various early Penguin non-fiction titles of the colonially-incorrect variety, some fringe erotica (cool grandma!) and a much-thumbed copy of Usage and Abusage, which the family couldn't believe I didn't already own. I picked up Liza of Lambeth because I vaguely thought I ought to have read some Maugham and because I used to live in Lambeth.

Liza is a gay young lady of the working class, who lives on Vere Street with her self-absorbed drunk mother, an assortment of cheerful children, and various hard-drinking men and endlessly-pregnant or bruised wives who claim their husbands are gentle when they haven't been drinking. The novel charts Liza's downfall from the well-loved young woman out-dancing the street in her new purple dress to the social outcast pushed into a public fistfight with her rival for the amusement of her neighbours.

Having learnt that it draws heavily on his experiences as a doctor in Lambeth, I take it that Maugham was aiming for a truthful representation of his experiences of the London working class. The picnic sequence lived up to this – I rather enjoyed this glimpse of a day off in the country – but elements such as the dancing in the street to the Italian organ grinder and much of the faux-Cockney language felt like cliches. Perhaps I'm being too harsh (were these tropes already well-trodden by 1897?), but I can't blame anyone but Maugham for the strong whiff of moral and social superiority that accompany them.

Liza is a difficult heroine to root for, being self-absorbed and hard-hearted (perhaps unsurprising, considering her mother); the only likeable character, Tom, is perceived as weak or wet and is rejected repeatedly. Although the narrator never overtly comments on Liza's choices, it's difficult not to read the novel as a cautionary tale. That said, it's even-handed in its disdain for slum life as the men – Tom excepted – are all drunks, braggarts and wife beaters.

However, I found myself most troubled by the start of Liza's affair, largely because

Book cover: The Rook by Daniel O Malley

When Myfanwy Thomas wakes up surrounded by dead bodies in a London park and no memory, she’s ever so grateful for the note in her pocket with instructions. Now she just has to fake she knows what she’s doing as a very senior member of a very secret government agency, save Britain from supernatural threats and figure out who stole her memory… without anyone noticing.

Book cover: Sixty-One Nails - Mike ShevdonWhen Niall has a heart attack mid-commute, he is rescued by Blackbird, a little old lady who is demonstrably more than she appears. She introduces him to the Feyre and none-too-gently informs him that he is part-Fey – and consequently on the Untainted’s death list.

Niall must master his talents, dodge his pursuers, help Blackbird stop the barrier keeping the wraithkin at bay from crumbling, and earn the protection of a Feyre Court if he and his daughter are to have any sort of future…