CRIME MYSTERY MARK BILLINGHAM Sleepyhead (Little. Brown £10) 000
Billed as a thriller with the ultimate twist you immediately expect the worst. But the twist is quite cunning: our evil anti-hero doesn't want to kill his victim, only leave them permanently paralysed. using a highly technical procedure involving pressure on the neck.
Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately for the unlucky few. this procedure takes a bit of practice and usually does not work. He is three natural stroke victims down the line before Tom Thorne. an unstable cop with his own demons to fight. learns about the connection of an unusual painkiller in their bloodstream and damage to their neck ligaments.
The plot pulls you along from the word go. pushing you towards an obvious suspect. and leaving you desperate for confirmation of the killer. Unfortunately, the real perpetrator becomes apparent about halfway through and then it's just filling in the blanks.
PAUL WILSON Someone To Watch Over Me (Granta £12.99) 0...
This book starts with a catastrophe — the slaying of nine primary school children — and ends leaving you with a better understanding of what makes people tick.
While the disaster is reminiscent of Dunblane with its similar location and sheer repugnance. it would be wrong to leave it there. This book takes the disaster and uses it as a basis for examining if miracles exist. B. Moon, an insurance investigator who is paid to disprove miracles. is called to look into the letters from God which mysteriously appear in the days following the massacre. As he is drawn into the inquest his cynicism evaporates and he begins to seek the answers he himself needs to carry on.
This beautiful book captivates you, leading you through waves of
sympathy for all the characters, from B. Moon whose thoughts lead you to learn of the accident that killed his own son years before, to Oscar. stuck away in an institution for years just for being simple.
MACABRE DRAMA PETER JINKS Hallam Foe (Review £99.99) 0000
The Wasp Factory has been bandied about a lot in the publicity for Peter Jinks' debut novel. and Hal/am Foe is indeed very similar to Banksy's disturbing first book. Peppered with strong characters, an outrageously dysfunctional family. breakneck banter dialogue and a knowing dark humour, Hal/am Foe is an excellent and abs0rbing read. although perhaps not as psychologically deep as Jinks w0u|d have us believe.
Foe is the teenage boy who. after the suicide of his mother and the appearance of an unwelcome stepmother. takes to the trees and rooftops of his family estate in Leicestershire to begin an obsession with voyeurism. As relations with his father and sister Lucy break down, Hallam moves to Edinburgh to continue his rooftop spying, only to return to the estate for an adrenaline-charged climax. Well-structured. fast-paced and assured. Ha/lam Foe is a highly promising debut from a confident and stylish writer. (Doug Johnstone)
SOCIAL DRAMA JENNIFER CLEMENT
A True Story Based On Lies (Canongate £9.99) .0.
Jennifer Clement's novel is an effective hybrid of several forms. It reads
like magic realism, until you realise there is nothing truly fantastical in the events described. It is written as prose. but its authOr's grounding in poetry informs its fragmented. concise style. And it is a warm, compassionate novel that describes much cruelty.
Clement's protagonist is Leonora. a gentle. superstitious girl who leaves her rural convent for Mexico City to nanny in the house of the wealthy O’Connor family. She lives a life of relative happiness with the eccentric, cross-eyed maid Josefa and kindly cook Sofia. until an affair with her master brings forth a child. and shatters her exrstence. Her tale is a sad. compelling one. but while Clement is a skilful storyteller. her novel's brevity makes it feel a little insubstantial. (James Smart)
WARREN ELLIS, DARIOK ROBERTSON & RODNEY RAMOS Transmetropolitan: Lonely City (DC/Vertigo) OOOO
This is the latest collection of Transmetropo/ifan. the c0ntinuing adventures of acidic journalist Spider Jerusalem. Set in the near future. this is a succession of rants from the protagonist about the state of the world he lives in. a decaying, harsh sci- fi environment a la Bladerunner.
These take the form of text from his column as well as more conventional dramatic strip action. Both writers (Ellis and Jerusalem) are seriously pissed-off. their dystopian world being an exaggeration of our worst present day traits. here accentuated by technology. Spiteful. political, gritty and hysterical all at the same time (Henry Northmore)
NEW ORDER Get Ready (London) 0000
Thundering drums. jangling guitar. that low- slung ‘lead' bass and those abysmal rhyming couplets delivered in that peculiar monotone - seven years on and the New Order sound has changed not a jot.
Having never sounded so content on vinyl before. they deliver with all the vibrancy of their previous work but little of their awkward, sneering attitude. This is supplied by Bobby Gillespie on “Rock The Shack' instead.
This is an optimistic. upbeat collection. Barney Sumner never really sounds anything other than delighted with the world (‘We're having the time of our lives' he declares on ‘Someone Like You'.)
Highlights include the aforementioned ‘Rock The Shack' and the single “Crystal'. two quite incredible hunks of electro-rock and the plaintive strings of closer ‘Run Wild' indicate a gentle acoustic side never fully explored.
If everyone took a leaf out of their book and only put out something when it was w0rth doing then the world would be a better sounding place. (Mark Robertson)
A Camp (Stockholm Records) 0...
There are those who have Nina Persson's career with The Cardigans down as a flouncy wimpfest with all the substance of an anorexic wafer. Or. contrarily, some see their work as segments of beauty whose delicacy only heightens the pleasure. Both sides will have their views merely enhanced by her launch into the solo game. Produced by Sparklehorse misery-
guts Mark Linkous. this album is a typically fragile piece. though when given an angry inch. Nina takes a mad mile by rocking out in a P.J. Harvey manner on ‘Hard As A Stone’. A Camp is simple but totally effective. (Brian Donaldson)
POP/FUNK JAMIROOUAI A Funk Odyssey (Sony) 000
Gone are the days when musicians used to mark their relationship breakdowns with albums that were dark cries of the heart that stained the very soul of the listener (see Dylan's Blood On The Tracks). Now we get a bit of warmed-over funk that is equal parts Brass Construction, George Clinton and Nile Rogers. The album certainly has its moments, such as the Current single “Little L' with its squirming strings and driven vocals; both that and the sweet ‘Picture Of My Life' are a return to form. The rest is fairly inoffensive and variable. more a short journey to the shops for Rizla than an Odyssey. (Paul Dale)
ROCK/POP MERCURY REV All Is Dream (V2) om.
In a year that's rapidly becoming something of a minor musical revelation, with albums by acts as diverse as Super Furry Animals. Sparklehorse and Missy Elliot all vying for record of the year status, here come Catskill crooners. Mercury Rev. to blow the competition clean out of the water.
Building upon the blueprint they laid down with 98's Deserter’s Songs. Mercury Rev have come up trumps with an album that's ambitious. exciting and at times, downright epic. A record of love. loss and broken dreams. nightmares. lullabies and hellish fairytales framed by some of the most gloriously cinematic arrangements last heard during Phil Spector's glory days. All this plus choirs of heavenly angels. bowed saws and a sense of childish wonder. At times bleak and despairing. then upbeat and heartfelt. it could well be the band's finest. most fully realised moment yet. As main man Jonathan Donahue recently commented. ‘We're an American band making cosmic music.‘ Enjoy the trip. (Neil Ferguson)
THE STROKES Is This lt (Rough Trade) 00..
The fact that the title of this album is a question but doesn't have the appropriate punctuation perfectly illustrates The Strokes frame of mind: they need nothing, not even grammar. And why should they? Currently leading The Strokes Vs God popularity contest by a country mile. they can do no wrong. Gripe if you like at the fact that half of this has been released before. it's all great anyway.
Like the skeletal new wave skankers they ape with such decadent ease. none of this captures their vitriolic live magic but instead the cranky funk (“Last Night'). heavy-lidded nonchalance (“Is This It') or bolshy arrogance (‘Take It Or Leave lt') they are so adept at. This is musically naive and samey at times but is more than sufficient to keep us all baying for more. (Mark Robertson)
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