Andrew Nicoll (Vintage)

You know a book is that good when you don’t want to finish the last page, lest the stories unfolding before you end and the characters bid farewell.

So it was with a heavy heart that I turned the last page of Andrew Nicoll’s wonderful debut and with it said adieu to Good Tibo Krovic, mayor of a Baltic town named Dot, and Mrs Agathe Stopak, his secretary and the (unrequited) love of his life.

This wonderfully constructed, imaginative and completely unpredictable read whisked me away to another time and place – one where the local Italian café owner’s mother is a witch, the obese town lawyer has a strange benevolent malevolence, and the quiet respectable town of Dot is watched over by the bearded Saint Walpurnia – who is also our narrator.

What follows is a love story, but one tinged with tragedy.

That Nicoll – a journalist – wrote the book in his native Scotland is a testament to his imaginative skill. That he wrote it on his daily train commute to work in Edinburgh is a marvel.