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ACRllvl-E FICTION Patricia Cornwell
The Last Precinct (Little, Brown £16.99)
Minette Walters The Shape Of Snakes (Macmillan £16.99)
On being asked to justify why her presence on Saga Tours from Torquay to the Caribbean was usually accompanied by a body count to rival the Gaza Strip, Miss Marple would smile her shrewd smile, narrow her beady eyes and cleverly point out that evil was everywhere. Strangely, bluff Colonel Mustard, tragic Miss Scarlett and other archetypes of crime fiction’s golden age would lap up this homespun, village wisdom, never once entertaining the notion that Agatha Christie’s celebrated bumpkin spinster was actually an international psychopath. in l, Not so slippery is Patricia '- Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta. Having fought the good fight on behalf of the state of Virginia for ten novels, the tough chief medical examiner now finds herself under criminal investigation for the murder of a professional rival. The Last Precinct picks up on the immediate aftermath of its predecessor Black Notice, and finds Scarpetta reeling from her ordeal at the hands of serial killing Werewolf Jean-Baptiste Chandonne. Never one to stick to a single plot-line when six or seven can be squeezed in, Cornwell ensures that Scarpetta has her scrubbed and Marigolded hands full, probing the innards of Werewolf’s victims, while defending herself against a murder charge and coping with her own personal trauma and family problems. Fans of the series will not be disappointed by this latest instalment, rich in gory, graphic forensic detail and full of the kind of humourless soul-searching and superhuman deduction we've come to expect from the likes of Scarpetta and her flawed colleagues. For the uninitiated, patience and concentration are required to get to grips with the complex plotting and readers may find their eyes swimming as Cornwell adds yet another thread to an already tangled web. Coincidentally, Minette Walters’ The Shape Of Snakes,
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Not a bumpkin spinster in sight
like The Last Precinct, is set in Richmond; albeit the one in glamorous Surrey. Walters has so far avoided having the finger of suspicion pointed at her investigators by varying them from book to book rather than conveniently locating the same gifted ‘tec in the vicinity of every murder to take place in an English country pile or rural community.
This tale of a middle-aged woman haunted by a twenty-year-old murder grips from the outset. The non- linear narrative is skilfully handled and there's a clarity of prose that comes as a relief after Cornwell's tortuous writing style.
Interestingly, for all their flinty contemporary detail, both Walters' and Cornwell’s novels conform to the well-worn whodunit tradition of zeroing towards the Scooby Doo denouement in the drawing room. Doubtless dear old Miss Marple would have approved. (Allan Radcliffe)
I The Last Precinct is published on Thu 79 Oct; The Shape
Of Snakes is published on Fri 20 Oct.
to set the record straight concerning this
Your toes will curl more than this man's free kicks
112 THE “ST l9 Oct—2 Nov 2000
MyWorld (Hodder & Stoughton £16.99)
If you type ’DaVid Beckham' into a search engine on the internet you get two things back. First, a heaVing list of fan pages celebrating the 25-year-old's life’s work, and second, a list of ‘We Hate DaVid Beckham' webSites. Not Since George Best has a footballer delighted and frustrated in equal meaSure to provoke such a reaction. This book then, is his version of events, but so familiar are these stories and so infantile is the writing style that it feels like trying to reVievv a copy of The Sun crossed with a teenager's diary. My World can be Viewed eQually as an act of epic egomania or an earnest attempt
much maligned, footballing genius.
But as any true BeCKs-baiter would hope, he comes across 50unding Iike a total divvy. From the opening ’all I ever wanted to do was kick a footbail about’ revelation, he trips through enough lines which make the toes curl more than ns famOus free kicks. The format is realistic at least; only a third is text, the rest being snaps of the fella, his missus and his bairn, with the occasionai cameo by his Red Devil team-mates.
My World feels like an attempt to c0unter mismformation pubi.shed by those nasty tablOids. Sadly for him, the Only people who will pay any attentiOn to this weighty tome are those \\ ho wOuldn't believe anything the press wrote abOut their beloved Becks anyway. llvlark Robertsonl I My World is out now.
Putting debut novelists under the microscope. This issue: Stephen Thompson
Who he? Born and raised in Hackney, Stephen Thompson left school with no Qualifications and, by his own admiSSion, 'wasted’ a number of years with drugs before being directed to writing classes by those in his rehab group. It was run by none other than Hanif Kureishi. After studying Journalism at Harlow College, Thompson moved to Paris where he is Currently completing his second novel. His debut It's called Toy Soldiers and tells the story of Gabriel Powers, a recovering crack addict who finds refuge in a rehab shelter and, with the help of worker MarCia, writes his life Story.
Basically . . . Basically, it’s a largeiy autobiographical tale of one man's victory over drug dependency and finding focus and motivation.
First paragraph test 'He needed a refuge, a sanctuary, a place to save himself from himself. Things had become desperate. For months he had been looking for a way to escape his hellish eXistence. He came across it purely by chance, on the tube one night, on his way back to Bethnal Green from Ealing Broadway, a i0urney he sometimes had to make in times of dr0ught. He noticed a pamphlet on the vacant seat next to him. Bored, he picked it up. It had ten or so poorly printed pages, loosely stapled. He scan-read the first page. Its contents were so depressing he scruncned the pamphlet into a ball and dropped it on the floor.’
Incidentally It is none other than Thompson's teacher, Kureishi, who gives the first glowing report on his work, regarding it as ’beautifully written, painfully honest and deeply affecting. Well, he wOuId say that, wOuldn't he.7 llvlark Robertsonl
3:1 Toy Soldiers is published by Sceptre
on Thu .79 Oct priced £6.99
, O y staph-n thymus-on