BOOKS / In Brief

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The Independent Culture
A Lonely Devil by Sousa Jamba, 4th Estate pounds 12.99. Evil is commonplace, but no less terrifying for that. Sousa Jamba's second novel is set on a mythical island, a thinly disguised Angola. It tells the story of Fernando, an orphan who becomes a journalist and then a secret policeman, discovering along the way an impressive talent for the niceties of torture and violent death. There is no doubt of the power of Jamba's writing: the torture scenes especially have such immediacy and veracity that I had to get off the tube two stops early before I threw up. But this is evil with no glimpse of redemption, darkness with no dawn. Jo-Ann Goodwin

Suicide Blonde by Darcey Steinke, Picador pounds 4.99. Jesse torments herself over her bisexual lover, Bell, who moons over his ex-lover, Kevin, who is getting married. Is Bell going back to the boys? Jesse tours the gay bars of San Francisco checking on him, also looking in on the mountainous, reclusive Madam Pig, who wants Jesse to find her daughter (or lover?) Madison, who is working as a prostitute. A hallucinatory map of hell, where the characters communicate through cruelty and sex has become a weapon. Anita Mason

What's Eating Gilbert Grape by Peter Hedges, Mandarin pounds 4.99. A twisted small-town family drama: likeable hero devoted to his 18-year-old brother with a mental age of six; one sister born again for Jesus, one for Elvis; obese Mom, once the town beauty, grieving over her husband's suicide. Ethereal love-interest, minimum corniness and leanings towards the darkly bizarre: John Irving meets David Lynch. Maggie Traugott

After the Hole by Guy Burt, Black Swan pounds 4.99. Twenty-year-old Burt has bunged If, The Collector and Lord of the Flies into the liquidiser. It is the end of term at 'Our Glorious School'. Instead of going home to their mummies and daddies, five pupils agree to take part in charismatic Martyn's 'experiment with real life'. This entails being locked by him into a windowless cellar for three whole days and nights. And when Martyn does not return . . . This assured debut details the inevitable descent from bonhomie to barbarism with horror and panache. Poe would have been pleased. Mark Sanderson

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