ALAN HOLLINGHURS‘I‘ The Line of Beauty (Picador $716.99) C...

The Influence of Henry James in Alan Hollinghurst's fourth novel is overt from the outset. Central character Nick Guest is a devoted James scholar and Hollinghurst depicts the finer nuances of social Interaction in a prose style that reads very much like the master himself. Guest's privileged position. as lodger with the family of a rather prominent MP in Margaret Thatcher's government. gives him extensive access to the rich and powerful. Through him. the reader quickly becomes caught up in the heady influences of sex. drugs. greed and politics that characterised the era.

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With The Line of Beauty. Hollinghurst has skilfully recreated the egotistic optimism of the 19805;. and JUSI as subtly manages to outline how it was gradually undermined. But more than being simply a novel of social mores. It's an engaging personal Journey for Guest. who. as a young gay man. moves slowly from innocence to experience. WI”) the reader kept painfully aware of all that this entails. (Rachael Street)



(Picador £10.99) 0...

She may be young. but she's a wise woman, is Nell Freudenberger. In this first collection of short stories. her lucky American girls find themselves abroad. mainly In India and Thailand. They're lucky because. like the rest of

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us westerners. they are free to travel and engage In any society they choose to. The world. seemingly. is their oyster yet most of these women are in trouble. The opening story deals with a woman bereft of her older. Indian lover. She is caught In a no-man's land of not wanting to let go of her beau's country. but having no further place in it. ‘The Orphan' is a painful. but beautifully observed exploration of a family whose younger daughter is working. self-righteously, In a Thai orphanage for babies WIth AIDS. Freudenberger's


(Faber $310.99) 0.”

Irish author Eoin McNamee has already made something of a name for himself writing novels set against the sectarian backdrop of Northern Ireland and based on real events. I-Iis debut, Resurrection Man, was made into a film, while 2001’s The Blue Tango got itself Booker longlisted. The Ultras, meanwhile, is a fictional account of the Troubles around the Irish border in the mid-70$ and, specifically, the mysterious death (or not) of British captain

Robert Nairac.

Something of a wild card, Nairac worked undercover in a covert operation for a shadowy organisation (which might or might not be the Ultras), and although he was reputedly executed by the IRA, his body was never found. McNamee tackles the story from the point of view of a disgraced copper, Blair Agnew, 30 years on, looking back into the story and

language is spare and poetic. drawing characters with astute subtlety. A lucky girl. indeed. (Ruth Hedges)



(Little. Brown $12.99)

Cavalcade is a book that explores with singular acuteness a world without compassion. Bruno de Stabenrath's debut novel (heavily based on his own tragic life) has his indolent protagonist Leo living the high life In France. with beautiful women and a successful career simply a given. A

trying to tie up the many loose ends. What’s most striking about The Ultras is McNamee’s prose style; clipped, tight sentences gradually build momentum to create a taut, tense atmosphere, while a concentration on hard-boiled, factual information is reminiscent of James Ellroy. The picture of 70s Ireland painted by McNamee is a truly shocking one, no more so than when he‘s dealing with the myriad of different British covert organisations battling the IRA (and often each other) in dodgy espionage and counter-espionage projects. Nairac‘s fate is inevitably left unresolved (as it is in real life) but the sense of a bamboozling, moral-free war zone is one that will remain with the reader for a long time. (Doug Johnstone)

somewhat different reality kicks in as Our warring anti-hero is forced to struggle and re-evaluate his existence after a car accident leaves him tetraplegic. Dominated by an obsession with women. the resonance of Leo‘s emotional recovery is tainted throughout by a cluttered narrative. Characters emerge then disappear without explanation, while the style of the omniscient narrator sits uncomfortany with the champion of the piece. leaving the reader deeply uninterested and unsympathetic about any of the author‘s cast. Even the environs fail to afford any colour to what is essentially a muddled canvas. An evocative ending makes this worthy of a bash for the literary hardcore. But only just. (Anna Millar)


Betrayal in Naples (Viking $39.99) on

In his debut novel. Neil Griffiths has created an

atmospheric and claustrophobic tale that manages to be part thriller. part literary musing and part love story. Within this interesting work. he takes the reader on a journey with a certain amount of panache. but ultimately the conflicting styles mean that Betrayal In Naples loses focus at vital points. The tale revolves around Jim, an unhappy Englishman on holiday In Naples. who manages to get embroiled In a dangerous love triangle and an even more threatening Mafia-style trial. The real love story.

McNamee's Troubles are taut and tense

though. Is between Griffiths and Naples. as the Curious By/antine City and its every cenceivable facet Is portrayed III painstaking detail. often to the detriment of the novel‘s pace. Ultimately. this Is a promising debut novel from a writer not afraid to take a conventional thriller format and Ingect some intelligence and thought Into It.

(Doug Johnstonei

CRIME DRAMA STAV SHEREZ The Devil's Playground (Michael Joseph 5312.99) 0.0

The front cove.r of Stav Sherez's debut makes It look like the worst book ever written. That blood-red cover. brash type and a tagline of ‘The Past Is Torture "The Present Is Hell" makes you believe you're In for a bumpy ride In a literary watt/er squeezed between Freddie Forsyth and Dick FranCIs. A delightful surprise then that The Dew/Ls P/ayground betrays those first IIIIpressit‘,»ns. Tackling Its varying subiects of the Holocaust. weird sex and serial killers. the story could only really have DGOI‘. set In Amsterdam. as we follow the Fellini-loving Dutch detective Ronald van Hun through a case of a dead tramp who may well hold the key to all his City's problems. MUSIC Journo Sherez can't stop himsel‘ throwmg In references to Zappa. Waits and the Grateful Dead. making him come over al Rankinesgue. The Juggernaut pace and moral-misting narrative addtothe comparisons. Maybe the real questIOII IS: do we actually need another Rankin” (Brian Donaldson)

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