In brief: Artifact; The Museum of Whales You Will Never See; A Woman Like Her – review

Hephzibah Anderson

Artifact

Arlene Heyman

Bloomsbury, £16.99, pp288

In her gloriously lusty debut short story collection, Scary Old Sex, Heyman, a psychiatrist, peeped into the bedrooms of a series of flawed heroines, illuminating how desire survives – and thrives – in middle age. Her first novel similarly reclaims carnal urges for nerdy girls, single mothers and survivors of trauma, all through one richly drawn character: scientist Lottie Kristin. As Lottie journeys from her 1940s midwestern childhood into Reagan’s 80s, her search for satisfaction of all kinds propels a wise, intimate tale that is by turns joyful, sorrowful and explicit – often hilariously so.

The Museum of Whales You Will Never See: Travels Among the Collectors of Iceland

A Kendra Greene

Granta, £14.99, pp272

Iceland has 265 museums – nearly one for every 1,250 residents. From Reykjavik’s Phallological Museum, which showcases the penises of every mammal on or around the island, to the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft, which grapples with the problem of how to display that which can’t be seen, Greene celebrates the obsession that keeps these whimsical collections going, along the way revealing plenty about a land of myth and geological marvel. If the book’s title strikes a plangent note now that so many of our own museums are imperilled, it only deepens the appeal of this quirky quest.

A Woman Like Her: The Short Life of Qandeel Baloch

Sanam Maher

Bloomsbury, £9.99, pp336

In 2016, Qandeel Baloch, Pakistan’s first social media celebrity, was murdered by her brother in an “honour” killing. Dubbed her nation’s Kim Kardashian, she was a construction – not even her name was real. This steely, urgent work of investigative journalism traces her rural beginnings, her flight from an abusive marriage (and the decision to abandon her son) and failed ambitions. It also shows how, revealing though her posts seemed to be, what they said most about was the seedy underworld that created her and the deadly cultural clash that claimed her life.

• To order Artifact, The Museum of Whales You Will Never See or A Woman Like Her, go to guardianbookshop.com. Free UK p&p over £15