The Little White Car (Canongate) 000.

After one boring evening too many of listening to experimental music. Veronique ditches her stoner bOyfriend and gets into a little white car to go home. But she has drunk a bit too much and the next morning an accident in a Paris tunnel with a certain high profile royal casualty is all over the news. The hunt for the driver of this small pale motor is on.

Veronique and her friend and accomplice Estelle are two gorgeous French girls who treat dismantling the car that could put them both in jail as seriously as their nails and love life. With poise and self-assurance they wander naturally into a series of funny Situations with likeable characters who perhaps do some not entirely defensible things. Easy to read. neat and without a hair out of place. The Little White Car is an absolute pleaSure.

(Anna Shipman)


The Burning Girl (Little. Brown) .00.


The Burning Girl is the fourth of Mark Billingham's thriller novels featuring police maverick. DI Tom Thorne. This time around he? investigating

a series of bloody contract killings involving the notorious Ryan family and a new rival gang which is keen to mark out its turf. But when a former colleague starts receiving spook phone calls about the case of a y0ung girl who was set on fire 20 years before. Thorne starts to realise that the two situations are connected in more ways that he previously imagined. This is another assured and complex thriller from Billingham who. in building up the highly compelling central story. is not afraid to break from the action and make room for a variety of sub-plots. And while some of these may seem a little superfluous at times. it adds a vital layer of interest and keeps the reader hanging on in suspense just that little bit longer. (Rachael Street)

RELATIONSHIP TALE JENNY COLGAN Do You Remember the First Time? (HarperCollins) O.

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Ill r63(3(3lli illll(}SS. sat)- called ‘chick-lit' has become a by-word for storylines slimmer than a whippet's paw-nail. peopled by crude stereotypes who endlessly bleat on about having no significant other and being the possessor of an oversized rear end. Admittedly. Ayrshire's Jenny Colgan is one of the more bearable purveyors of this brand of sugar~coated reactionary claptrap. Her prose is energetically paced and she has a keen ear for the frivolous concerns ()f bored office workers everywhere.

In her fifth novel. iiiterchangeable heroine Flora, bored of her disposable income and urban lifestyle. Wishes she was it} again and

in a Peggy Sue Got Married style. is given a second chance in a parallel universe. Armed with the sass and wit of a 32-year-old. teenage Flora naturally kicks some serious teen ass. Ironic then that for all Flora's determined peddling of her chirpy let's-all-accept-each- other-philosophy, it remains vital to Colgan's female characters to be romantically attached and free of wrinkles and cellulite. (Allan Radcliffe)


SHARPE The Sleeping Father

(Sceptre) 0000


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After accrdentally combining anti- depressants. Bernie Schwart7 lapses into a coma, waking to discover he has severe brain damage and is no longer able to speak or think coherently. His son Chris alternately adoring and abusing his neurologist devises a rehabilitative regime founded almost entirely on misinformation, while his daughter Cathy attempts to channel a newfound Catholic fervour into her father's recovery.

The meat of Matthew Sharpe's narrative isn't exactly Joyful. yet it is observed and delivered with a rare perfection and such impeccable comic timing that its vivacity somehow overcomes its sorrow. The certainty and unfaltering skill of his writing will make you trust him as he assures. even in the midst of tragedy. the world is a place of 'angst everywhere and nothing to be feared'. This is one of the freshest and most touching books of the year. and though sometimes it made me cry. it's still making me laugh. (Katie Could)


L'TERARY DRAMA appears: ‘There was evocativer using the

SOPHIE sex. there was the extreme climates of the CUNNINGHAM weather.‘ It's a succinct world as metaphor for Geography

summary of the two main topics addressed in Geography. a story which is told with texture and depth. yet which leaves one with a slight feeling of disappointment. The story is of obsessive love. as our narrator Catherine falls hopelessly and brutally for the older and cagier Michael.

The tale trots around the globe from Australia to America and on to India with Sophie Cunningham

the extreme nature of our two main protagonists relationship. The sex scenes are equally explicit and vivid. never seeming gimmicky or staged, but while Cunningham can clearly create atmosphere and setting, the plot of Geography does tend to wander a little at times. With a storyline to match her settings. Cunningham could well become a powerful novelist.

(Deug Johnstone)

(Doubleday) .0.

About half way through this atmospheric debut novel. the following line



The Radioactive Boy Scout (Fourth Estate) 00


How to Build a Nuclear Bomb (Granta) 000

How far would you go to get your Eagle Scout atomic energy badge? Aged 19, David Hahn went to the extreme lengths of building a nuclear reactor in his mother’s potting shed. The Radioactive Boy Scout tells this amazing true story. Eventually. First we must suffer schoolboy science, the history of the Boy Scouts and constant reminders that Kahn lacked social skills and was obsessed by chemistry. Originally an article in Harper’s, the extraneous detail used to pad this story out swamps the fantastic stuff about Hahn using a combination of mail order chemicals, common household objects and stolen lab property to make a model nuclear reactor that was so radioactive that US government men in protective suits had to dismantle it. You really needn’t bother with this and I can reveal that Hahn did achieve his badge.

Hahn’s success lends support to physicist Luis Alvarez’s comment that ‘even a high school kid could make a [nuclear] bomb in short order’, one of the less worrying details in How to Build a Nuclear Bomb. The cartoony front cover and title belie the learned contents wherein WMD expert Frank Barnaby discusses the difference between chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, how they are made and whether there’s anything we can do to prevent a terrorist attack.

If you are interested in the disturbing truth behind the media’s hysterical outbursts, then the diagrams, photos and eyewitness accounts all add to a very accessible and informative start. But Barnaby’s predictions of what counter-terrorism measures can achieve may not reassure you when there are boy scouts on the loose.

(Anna Shipman)

is" KEN SILERSTEINI Frank Barnaby

and other weapons of mass destruction


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