Books / In brief

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The Kommandant's Mistress by Sherri Szeman, Secker pounds 8.99. Tough, ambitious, finely written novel about a Jewish woman kept prisoner in the office of a Nazi camp commandant for his sexual use. In two first-person narratives, we hear his obsessed, paranoid story and hers, restrained and terrible. The complex structure, zigzagging in time through short scenes associatively linked, sets up a puzzle that is not resolved by the documents contained in the final pages; yet this unresolvedness is curiously satisfying, expressing truths about deep suffering and identity. Anita Mason

Gone Tomorrow by Gary Indiana, Hodder pounds 9.99. A gay men's Gotterdammerung, gripping but relentlessly grungy. The American narrator looks back to a film location in Cartagena, where, along with the German director and an international group of actors, he indulged in aberrant sex, drugs, and malice against a backdrop of death-

squads, escaped Nazis and serial killers. The scene shifts to Munich, where Aids is in full swing: a desperate dance of death, with frantic debauchery and muddy Third Reich overtones, such as the director laying on live sex shows while reading Mein Kampf to his lover. It is meant to be black comedy, and might have succeeded with more restraint, but the mind can only take so much. A final niggle: somebody should tell Indiana that women also die of Aids. Leslie Wilson

Iced by Ray Shell, Flamingo pounds 5.99. Black actor Ray Shell's first novel resembles a flaying documentary. The confessional diary of a crack-addict, its hip argot, multiple exclamation marks and confiding tone exude authenticity. How does a gifted student from a loving-enough family turn into a zombified baby-murderer? A frightening tale with no answers, made all the more poignant by the sympathy Shell creates for his hero. Verity Mason

The Candlemass Road by George MacDonald Fraser, Harvill pounds 12.99. Narrated by an ageing recusant priest, this novel deals with power, lust and survival in the lawless Border country of Tudor England. The historical detail is vivid without being ponderous, the narrative perfectly paced, strung on the sexual tension between the convincing central characters, an aristocratic woman and an outlaw. There is a tinge of melodrama, but it's kept well under control. Leslie Wilson

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