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Kim Lock, Macmil­lan, $29.99

A weepie. The story be­gins back in the 1960s. Lock takes her time qui­etly mock­ing the way we were. What we didn’t say or even imag­ine. Fast for­ward to the present and Thomas Mul­lett is con­fess­ing all to a nice psy­chother­a­pist who is un­pre­pared for what he will hear, but ral­lies splen­didly. So much hap­pens. To say more would spoil the sur­prises.


Alexan­der Lang­lands, Faber and Faber, $39.99

One fine day, Lang­lands, his­to­rian and arche­ol­o­gist, fell foul of his whip­per snip­per. The blasted thing re­quired con­stant main­te­nance. Among his col­lec­tion of nice things to own was a scythe. A pass­ing game­keeper stopped to ex­plain what he was do­ing wrong and also primed the im­ple­ment. Scythes have been in use for 2500 years. This one worked like a dream. Since then Lang­lands has re­searched im­ple­ments, made by hand, which pre­date power tools. Ev­ery para­graph yields some­thing new and po­tently at­trac­tive.


A.J. Finn, Harper­collins, $39.99

Some­one wit­nesses a mur­der. Po­lice ar­rive. No body. No sign of vi­o­lence. Wit­ness se­verely rep­ri­manded for wast­ing po­lice time. Yes, it’s been done be­fore. The most fa­mous ex­am­ple is Hitch­cock’s Rear Win­dow. Finn’s wit­ness, how­ever, is an ago­ra­pho­bic. For 10 months Anna Fox has re­mained in­doors, alone, with on­line chess, DVDS, crate-loads of mer­lot and a panoply of mod­ern gad­getry for clan­des­tine sur­veil­lance. Neigh­bour Rita Miller cheats on her hus­band, across the way Alis­tair Rus­sell is a con­trol freak. Then Anna sees the fa­tal stab­bing. If it wasn’t a hal­lu­ci­na­tion, the mur­derer must surely want to shut her up. Scary.


Laura Greaves, Michael Joseph, $35

Greaves finds 29 ‘pro­fes­sions’ at which dogs ex­cel. As we know, dogs can de­tect ex­plo­sives, drugs and an im­pend­ing epilep­tic fit. Less well known is their affin­ity with an­ti­so­cial ado­les­cents; true friends when fam­ily and ther­a­pists strug­gle to find a path­way.


Paul At­ter­bury and Marc Al­lum, Wil­liam Collins, $39.99

The much-loved tele­vi­sion show has drawn to­gether peo­ple who wouldn’t nor­mally cross paths. We see them gath­er­ing in the grounds of a Ken­tish abbey or a Northum­brian cas­tle, bring­ing items for a free eval­u­a­tion. A stag­ger­ingly ugly vase might turn out to be worth tens of thou­sands, while an ex­quis­ite scent bot­tle gets a sweet smile and, “About 20 quid?” The sto­ries in the book tell much about the power of old ob­jects to spark an ap­petite for the past.


Mike Wille­see, Macmil­lan, $44.99

A Royal Com­mis­sion found that Bin­doon re­for­ma­tory in­flicted sex­ual abuse on the boys in its care. When Wille­see was 10 years old, his fa­ther sent him there for a year to “toughen him up”. Wille­see de­scribes it as “the epi­cen­tre of the sadism: pae­dophilia, slave labour, phys­i­cal abuse and psy­cho­log­i­cal bru­tal­ity”. He be­came the whip­ping boy. His mother con­fessed that she bonded only with the youngest of her six children and that Mike was the one she liked least. So, a bad start in life. How­ever, jour­nal­ism was Wille­see’s es­cape. In This Day Tonight, Four Cor­ners, Wille­see at Seven and Sun­day Night, he made the me­dia un­der­stand that Can­berra’s sched­ule plus sport, sport, sport were not enough. The most shock­ing chap­ters are the first and the last. Last year Wille­see’s on­col­o­gists told him he had in­cur­able tu­mours. At his in­sis­tence they tri­alled a new drug. After nine weeks the ter­mi­nal tu­mours had gone. They’re begin­ning to be ac­tive again and he’s hav­ing ra­di­a­tion. His spe­cial­ist is very pos­i­tive.


Nuno Men­des, Blooms­bury, $49.99

Long ago in Mozam­bique, which was then a Por­tuguese colony, I learnt to like their food. Meat was cooked overnight in an­cient ovens, plump sar­dines black­ened on bar­be­cues and prawns piri piri were ev­ery­day fare. Men­des, a Lis­boan, is now a fa­mous Lon­don chef. His recipes in this book are per­haps more an in­spi­ra­tion to dine out than to pre­pare at home. It’s a book I’d give to some­one stressed and weary as a hint to plan a hang-loose holiday. At an hour when we would be think­ing about lunch, Lis­boans are still ru­mi­nat­ing over break­fast’s bo­las de Ber­lim — squelchy dough­nuts filled with egg cus­tard.

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