IN&OUTTONIGHT REVIEWS 26 Tuesday, 29 September 2009 London Lite REVIEWSBOOKS ThistimetheTravelersWife hasgotthefantasywrong HISTORICAL ROMANCE The Winter Ghosts ByKateMosse(Orion,14.99) HHHHI Dan Brown take note. authors of rambling, time- warping, clich-ridden, historical murder mysteries can also write the sort of concise books that will please critics and readers alike. Kate Mosses short illustrated novella The winter Ghosts returns to the south-west France setting of her bestselling, but ridiculous, novels Labyrinth and Sepulchre. But the strong female protagonists are replaced by an emotionally and physically weak man, Freddie. Its 1928 and 25-year-old Freddie is still grieving his beloved older brothers death in the First world war and his parents deaths in the decade that followed. So he heads out on a road trip through France until a car crash forces him to make an unexpected stop in the village of nulle, where something is misaligned, like a picture askew on a wall. The plot thickens when Freddie meets the enchanting but mysterious Fabrissa. By leaving out subplots, the author has left us with an undiluted, poignant and almost believable story of coming to terms with loss and looking to the future that can be read in one sitting. over to you, Dan. LAUREN PAXMAN a woMan with a scarred face books herself into a private clinic to have the scar removed. The clinic is in a creepy old manor house -- theres a stone circle in the grounds, and an ancient legend that a witch was tied to one of the stones and burned alive. The clinic is full of oddballs: the ice-cold surgeon, the needy nurse hes sleeping with, the uptight housekeeper. Then somebody murders the woman with the scar and everybody in this small world becomes a suspect. wonderfully done. WILLIAM LEITH The Private Patient ByPDJames (Penguin,7.99) Newpaperbacks FICTION Her Fearful Symmetry ByAudreyNiffenegger(JonathanCape,18.99) HHIII WHAT was life like in the 14th century? Well, says Ian Mortimer in this sparkling book, it wasnt a case of aristocrats on the one hand and peasants on the other. No, there were many levels of peasants -- with social mobility a distinct possibility. But women were still owned by their husbands, people were violent, disease was rampant, and, of course, everyone stank. Terrific. WL The Time Travellers Guide To Medieval England ByIanMortimer (Vintage,8.99) aMErICan journalist Tom Vanderbilt tells us all sorts of things about traffic, as youd expect from the title. But he also uses the subject to tell us all sorts of things about ourselves. why do people drive better in some countries than others? It turns out it may be something to do with government corruption. Probably the most striking fact he highlights is that when road traffic signs are removed, people drive more, not less, carefully, demonstrating that signs can stop you thinking for yourself. WL Traffic ByTomVanderbilt (Penguin,9.99) Here comes another biggie. Audrey Niffeneggers last novel The Time Travelers Wife was such a critical and commercial sensation that this is probably the second-most eagerly anticipated novel of the year, behind Dan Browns The Lost Symbol. Niffenegger hasnt tampered too much with her formula. But this time her tale is focused on matters supernatural rather than dimension-shifting. The central characters are Julia and Valentina, rather creepy 21- year-old Chicagoan twins, who dress alike and hold hands in public. Their mother is a twin, too, but shes estranged from her sister, elspeth, who lives in a flat overlooking Highgate Cemetery. When elspeth dies, she leaves her flat to her nieces who move to London. They then discover theres a ghost in the flat -- elspeth. So far so good. But Niffenegger then proceeds to blow such a nifty premise by going beyond otherworldly into plain silliness. elspeth has a special power that she uses to try to make one of the twins happier. And its a preposterous power that is used in such a manner that does not make any sense. Disappointing. PAUL CONNOLLy Success story: Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana in The Time Travelers Wife Peters back in the old routine W ITh his gently nostalgic routines -- remember pagers, eh? what was all that about?-- you could hardly say Peter Kay has changed the face of comedy. But he has changed the face of publishing. In 2006, Peter Kay: The Sound of Laughter became the bestselling hard- back autobiography of all time in Britain, shifting more than a million copies in 100 days to a target demographic of northerners that one commentator unkindly referred to as the sort of people who fear quiche. as a result, last year saw the release of memoirs by Dawn French, alan Carr, Paul oGrady and Julie walters, while this month alone books by Jack Dee, Jo Brand, Simon Pegg and Frankie Boyle (see review, right) will hit the shelves. Ironically, though, the new Peter Kay will probably end up being the old Peter Kay. The Sound of Laughter ended before he became famous; Saturday night Peter recounts his years as a stand-up, from corporate gigs to the giddy heights of playing Manchesters Frog & Bucket club. anyone who enjoyed his first book will find plenty more where that came from. Kays talent lies in his brilliant eye for telling detail. he evokes a world of Toffos and curly fries, Blankety Blank and noels house Party. he mentions Greggs so often you cant help suspecting hes got a product placement deal. and the comedy circuit certainly provides him with plenty of material. In the five years it took him to land Phoenix nights, Kay accepted the sort of gigs that alan Partridge would prob- ably feel were beneath him. he remembers the time he was booked for a corporate function for Coloplast, manufacturers of colostomy bags and penal sheaths. he wrapped up with the words: Id like to pass on my gratitude to Coloplast because thanks to their products Ive been able to go to the toilet twice in the last half hour. hang on, make that three times. Then theres the time he supported a magician called Sheikra! The Bird Lady of Barrow. She released a flock of doves, only for one to be sucked up into the extractor fan. with the audience in uproar and the backing band covered in birds innards, a traumatised Sheikra fled the stage to the strains of Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic. Kays chatty style suggests he didnt suffer from the literary equivalent of second album syndrome. at one point he even pauses to say hes just heard Michael Jackson is dead. But as with his first book, it reads more like a series of com- edy routines than an autobiography. There are also a few howlers. at one point he quips: Low-budget flights were really taking off at the time... Maybe Im just not in the target demo- graphic though -- I quite like quiche. THE bIG REAd Saturday Night Peter ByPeterKay(Century,20) HHIII AMbER COWAN Early stage: Kay writes about his years on the comedy curcuit FrANkIe BoyLe and restraint go together like MPs and truthful expenses forms. The Mock The Week panellist couldnt even refrain from swearing in the title of his autobiography, and he hasnt held back in the book, either. Calling your readers c***s isnt the best way to get them on side, but Boyle also insults pretty much everyone else. on Peter Andre and katie Price, he quips: He will be entitled to half of Jordans assets, so at least he gets a Space Hopper. His upbringing does justify the title. raised on an estate in Glasgow, Boyle turned to alcohol and drugs early on and came to about a decade later, divorced and depressed. Hes now a teetotal father of two who claims next years tour, called I Would Happily Punch every one of you In The Face, will be his last. Thats probably wise: this is full of funny one-liners, but the joke of insulting those who pay your mortgage will wear thin eventually. LP HUMOUR My Shit Life So Far ByFrankieBoyle(HarperCollins,18.99) HHHII index.html2.html3.html4.html5.html6.html7.html8.html9.html10.html11.html12.html13.html14.html15.html16.html17.html18.html19.html20.html21.html22.html23.html24.html25.html26.html27.html28.html29.html30.html31.html32.html33.html34.html35.html36.html37.html38.html39.html40.html41.html42.html43.html