Books: Spoken Word

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The Independent Culture
The Surgeon of Crowthorne

Penguin, 3hrs, pounds 8.99

SIMON WINCHESTER'S masterful telling of the strange tale of WC Minor, murderer and word-sleuth, is one of those rare stories that combine human drama and historical significance. The "sad captain", as he was known, remained haunted by his experiences in the American Civil War to such a degree that he murdered an innocent man and was committed to Broadmoor in 1872. It was arguably the best thing that could have happened to him. The benevolent governor allowed him free reign to import as many books as he wanted, and Minor became a major contributor to the formidable undertaking of the first Oxford English Dictionary. But there was more to it than that... Tim Pigott-Smith reads superbly.

Divorcing Jack

HarperCollins, 3hrs, pounds 8.99

COLIN BATEMAN'S Belfast-set thriller is a roller-coaster ride of a book that will keep you chuckling and horrified in equal measure from start to finish. A drunken affair at a party is the trigger that sends journalist Dan Starkey into a nightmare world of murder and mayhem in which he's unsure whether his vengeful wife, the IRA, Protestant extremists or all three are out for his blood. James Nesbitt's almost edible Irish voice enhances the wit and wizardry of a story that is as much a mystery novel as a romance, and which deservedly won the Betty Trask Award in 1994.