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7:00am Saturday 15th December 2012 in Books
A look at the latest releases, plus what's new in paperback.
By Kate Whiting
Lamb by Bonnie Nadzam is published in paperback by Hutchinson, priced £12.99. Available now.
Scrawny, gap-toothed eleven-year-old Tommie is only acting on a dare from her friends when she approaches David Lamb, a 54-year-old in the grip of a mid-life crisis who has just buried his father.
While asking for a cigarette, her ignorant confidence is shaken when he pretends to abduct her, to scare some sense into her before taking her home.
But a bond is forged and David's spurious decision leads to a horrifically skewed exploration of the old American Dream.
US writer Bonnie Nadzam's debut novel is, quite simply, a page-turner. It's hard to avoid comparisons with Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita due to its themes but the omnipresent narration is perfectly unsettling, giving hints of past and future events and casting dark hints on interpreting the present.
Despite David's surname, Tommie is the real lamb, and his manipulation of her gullibility is chilling to read and the suspense is as gripping as the minimalist style.
(Review by Natalie Bowen)
The Forgotten by David Baldacci is published in hardback by Macmillan, priced £18.99. Available now.
David Baldacci's latest thriller brings you back into the world of US military criminal investigator John Puller, an agent with no rules.
Puller's latest case is close to home when he is called to investigate a death in Paradise, Florida.
The victim, his aunt; the motive, unknown. The crime had already been ruled as an accident but Puller finds evidence to the contrary.
As he delves deeper into the mystery, he realises the sleepy town of Paradise is a hotbed of secrets and lies. And with more and more of the residents being killed, he faces a race against time to solve the case.
Baldacci has proven once again that he can keep you on the edge of your seat with a thrilling, action-packed storyline that draws you deeper into the explosive world of John Puller.
(Review by Philip Robinson)
Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver is published in hardback by Faber and Faber, priced £18.99 (ebook £7.60). Available now.
Dellarobia Turnbow is trapped in an unhappy marriage with two young children and domineering in-laws. Her guilt-ridden tryst with a young lover offers her some distraction from the gnawing poverty and the general drudgery of life.
On her way to one of these clandestine encounters, she chances upon beautiful Monarch butterflies - like "showers of orange sparks" - in her in-laws' woodland estate.
Accidentally hailed as a visionary, her tale draws the attention of the locals and the media, and soon scientists are looking into the cause of this miraculous phenomenon.
Set in the rural Appalachian backdrop, Orange Prize winner Kingsolver weaves her magic in this beautifully written story that gives an insight into the effects of climate change while touching upon modern American consumerism.
Brilliantly narrated, the book is full of poetic charm and steeped in biblical references.
(Review by Nilima Marshall)
Bleak Expectations by Mark Evans is published in hardback by Corsair, priced £14.99. Available now.
Those who haven't had the pleasure of catching the Radio 4 show will be unfamiliar with the plight of young Pip Bin.
Following the popularity of the programme is Mark Evans's new novel, a pastiche of arguably Dickens's most iconic works - Bleak House and Great Expectations.
Written as a collection of memoirs from the brilliant but uncelebrated writer and inventor Sir Philip Bin, Bleak Expectations has all the vital ingredients of a good, old-fashioned Victorian adventure.
Unlikely inheritance, a jovial sidekick and menacing guardians all make an appearance, with Evans shining a satirical light on Dickens's familiar plotlines.
As Pip's life continues its downward spiral, both Evans's plot and use of adjectives become more and more obscure.
What results is an engaging and highly amusing tale, just the right side of ridiculous.
(Review by Lauren Hughes)
Orders From Berlin by Simon Tolkien is published in hardback by HarperCollins, priced £20 (ebook £9.99). Available now.
You may recognise the surname, but there are no hobbits, wizards or powerful rings in this novel.
JRR Tolkien's grandson, Simon, holds his own in this gripping Second World War espionage thriller.
It's 1940, and one of the worst wars in the history of mankind is well under way. The Luftwaffe is bombing London; the RAF is bombing Berlin.
However, Hitler wants no more of this. He wants to focus his efforts on beating the Soviets, and wants peace with Britain.
But Nazi-hating Winston Churchill stands in his way, and the only solution for Hitler is to hire a double agent in MI6 to assassinate him.
When a retired intelligence chief is then murdered, investigating officer Detective Constable Trace discovers the gruesome plot, and tries to weed out the good guys from the bad, before it's too late...
This is a simply brilliant novel. Tolkien weaves historical facts into his fiction, and it's seamless. His description of the Blitz is incredible.
Tolkien is brave to create a character of Hitler, but it's believable, and he's obviously done a lot of research. It takes at least two chapters before things really get going, so persevere, as it's worth it.
(Review by Emma Wilson)
Children's book of the week
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Official Movie Guide by Brian Sibley is published in paperback by HarperCollins, priced £14.99. Available now.
Broadcaster and author of The Lord Of The Rings: The Making Of The Trilogy and director Peter Jackson's official biography, Brian Sibley returns to New Zealand to look behind the scenes of Jackson's next film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
Packed with exclusive behind-the-scenes photographs of the actors, stunning locations, costumes, creatures and sets, this book concentrates on interviews with the cast and crew, as well as the casting directors and technical team who all put this film together.
There are interviews with Martin Freeman, who plays the younger Bilbo Baggins; Gollum star Andy Serkis, who also works as second unit director; Barry Humphries, who plays the Great Goblin King; and the gifted people who developed the prosthetics, costumes, hair and make-up.
Sibley is obviously a enthusiastic fan of the movie and he has captured all the care and passion that has gone into every detail of writing, developing, creating and filming.
This book is ideal for the person who is interested in the art of movie-making as much as the story of The Hobbit.
(Review by Laura Wurzal)
Shakespeare's Local: Five Centuries Of History Seen Through One Extraordinary Pub by Pete Brown is published in hardback by Macmillan, priced £16.99. Available now.
The George Inn has stood by London Bridge since 1542. Or 1475. Or 1380. Its founding date is one of the many controversies and eccentricities of the famous pub, which has seen more than its fair share of history.
Dickens was said to have been a regular, while Chaucer set his Canterbury Tales next door, and Shakespeare was known to pop in from the nearby Globe theatre.
Writer Pete Brown spares no detail when telling the story of the George, its Southwark surroundings, and London as a whole over the last 500 years.
His enthusiasm for his subject is infectious and the book is filled with random facts and flights of fancy (the controversy over the founding date of the George is compared, ingeniously, with the Sugababes' line-up).
Essentially a love story to Britain's famous pub culture, Shakespeare's Local is just crying out to be read in front of an open fire with, of course, a decent pint.
(Review by Kathryn Gaw)
Inside The Centre: The Life of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Ray Monk is published in hardback by Jonathan Cape, priced £30. Available now
Theoretical physicist J Robert Oppenheimer was widely regarded as one of the most unique minds of the 20th century, recognised most famously for his contribution to the development of the first atomic bomb, which arguably brought an end to the Second World War.
With an astounding amount of detail, Ray Monk masterfully plots Oppenheimer's life, from his affluent beginnings in a German-Jewish family in New York, to his reputation as one of the world's most respected physicists who worked alongside Einstein.
His story is one of many genres: sci-fi (as many thought), war, espionage and intense drama, as Oppenheimer struggles to find a balance between being accepted and being revered.
Throughout his life many questioned his loyalties; being affiliated with Communist party members meant he was under constant observation by the FBI.
An extensive and unrelenting insight that reflects a man of equal intensity and genius, fittingly dubbed 'Father of the Bomb'.
(Review by Wayne Walls)
A Natural History Of Ghosts: 500 Years Of Hunting For Proof by Roger Clarke is published in hardback by Particular Books, priced £20. Available now.
Journalist and film writer Roger Clarke has been intrigued by ghosts since growing up in a reputedly haunted house, and this intriguing book is in part the fruit of his own frustration at never seeing any of the spectres himself.
It takes a pleasingly British approach to the subject - neither tiresomely sceptical nor the work of a swivel-eyed true believer, it does not press an agenda so much as tell a tale.
Naturally, at times, that tale leaves the reader feeling a distinct chill. But this is no mere rehash of popular ghost stories.
Clarke offers detailed research on famous cases such as the Angels of Mons and the Enfield Poltergeist, looking at the way initial incidents and fictionalised accounts get tangled up, aided by the natural infidelity of human memory and hearsay.
If the manner of the telling occasionally recalls MR James's prickly, donnish narrators, that is surely apt.
(Review by Alex Sarll)
Bumfodder: An Absorbing History Of Toilet Paper by Richard Smyth is published in hardback by Souvenir Press, priced £10. Available now.
If you're going to give a book about toilet paper the cunning subtitle An Absorbing History..., you need to actually make sure it's interesting.
Luckily writer and cartoonist Richard Smyth manages this, by tapping into that great source of British wit, toilet humour.
Here, he charts the origins of an industry that's worth £600 million a year in the UK alone, from the early Chinese mulberry paper, to present-day Japan's obsession with electric loos that squirt jets of water into your nether regions.
He dwells on Rabelais's anti-hero Gargantua's experiments with the perfect wiping implement, after which he concluded that a goose's neck was ideal, and the Victorian innovation in perforated paper that finally ended the habit of wiping with the pages of any book to hand.
Thankfully, Smyth's book is absorbing enough not to risk it coming to this particularly sticky end.
(Review by Kate Whiting)
Cruel Britannia: A Secret History Of Torture by Ian Cobain is published in hardback by Portobello Books, priced £18.99. Available now.
British honour and a sense of 'fair play' may have been greatly tarnished in today's world, but a remnant of this national pride lingers on when it comes to the conduct of the Armed Forces. Torture is not something we believe our leaders would condone.
Yet investigative journalist Ian Cobain's book describes governmental acceptance of and complicity in obtaining military information by psychological and physical force since the Second World War - and an encompassing policy to keep these details secret.
In what is often an uncomfortable read, Cobain interviews victims who tell of horrendous treatment by their interrogators in the 1950s, discusses the "five techniques" used against IRA members during the Troubles, and investigates Britain's involvement with "war on terror" suspects, who are trying to get their cases of alleged human rights abuses through international courts.
An excellent, unsettling, important book, which goes beyond conspiracy theories to highlight truths most would rather not think about.
(Review by Natalie Bowen)
Best-Sellers for the week ending December 1
1 A Street Cat Named Bob, James Bowen
2 The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared, Jonas Jonasson
3 The Woman Who Went To Bed For A Year, Sue Townsend
4 Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel
5 The Dinosaur That Pooped Christmas, Tom Fletcher & Dougie Poynter
6 Thinking, Fast And Slow, Daniel Kahneman
7 The Snow Child, Eowyn Ivey
8 The House Of Silk: The New Sherlock Holmes Novel, Anthony Horowitz
9 The Best Of Matt 2012, Matthew Pritchett
10 The Snowman: The Book Of the Film, Raymond Briggs
1 Jamie's 15-Minute Meals, Jamie Oliver
2 Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: The Third Wheel, Jeff Kinney
3 Guinness World Records 2013
4 Is It Just Me? Miranda Hart
5 1,227 QI Facts To Blow Your Socks Off, John Lloyd & John Mitchinson
6 Standing In Another Man's Grave, Ian Rankin
7 Bradley Wiggins: My Time: An Autobiography, Bradley Wiggins
8 Private Eye Annual 2012, Ian Hislop
9 Nigellissima: Instant Italian Inspiration, Nigella Lawson
10 Bring Up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel