Buda’s Wagon: A Brief History of the Car Bomb By Mike Davis Verso, 228pp, $ 39.95 IN 1920, Italian anarchist Mario Buda parked an explosives- filled horse- drawn carriage in New York’s financial district and triggered a blast that killed 40 people. Since then, Mike Davis says, vehicle bombs have become ‘‘ the brutal hardware and quotidian workhorses of urban terrorism’’, while ‘‘ the irreversible globalisation of carbombing know- how’’ has spread like an implacable virus, with US- occupied Iraq the epicentre. Car bombs are ‘‘ extraordinarily cheap’’: 40 or 50 people can be massacred with a stolen car and about $ 500 worth of fertiliser and bootlegged electronics. Wild Ride: The Rise and Fall of Cobb & Co By Sam Everingham Viking, 308pp, $ 32.95 AMERICAN Freeman Cobb started Cobb & Co in 1853, slashing the Melbourne to Bendigo run to an unheard- of 10 hours. Replacing stiff English coaches with American ones — faster, more rugged and reliable — was the technical breakthrough; the gold rush provided human traffic and government and private freight. Sam Everingham’s style isn’t scintillating but his material is strong. Bushfires, not bushrangers, were the drivers’ worst nightmare and acute judgment was needed to avoid being ‘‘ trapped and burned alive with their passengers’’. Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade — and How We Can Fight It By David Batstone HarperSanFrancisco, 301pp, $ 24.99 WITH 27 million humans forced to work against their will, there’s a good chance that something in your house was made by modern slaves. In Nepal’s rug factories, the brothels of Rome and Pakistan’s quarries and shoe factories, slavery generates up to $ US32 billion ( about $ 39 billion) in revenue annually and challenges drugs and illegal arms sales as the top criminal activity. It’s not just a problem for developing countries. Campaigner David Batstone finds slaves in a San Francisco Indian food outlet, while Europe is awash with sex slaves imported from Africa and the former Soviet republics. Mozart and the Whale: An Unexpected Love Story Jerry and Mary Newport Allen & Unwin, 265pp, $ 29.95 JERRY and Mary Newport, savants with Asperger’s syndrome, met and married in 1994. On their first date, Jerry sees a numberplate, 20013, and asks, ‘‘ Did you know October 17, 1955, was the 20,013th day of this century?’’ Mary is brilliant at painting and music. Yet by 1999 they had divorced and tried to commit suicide, only to remarry two years later. This human roller- coaster ride should be riveting but comes across as flat, as if the Newports have told their story too many times.