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CLINT EASTWOOD by Minty Clinch, Hodder, pounds 15.99

'Eastwood loves animals, and never squashes an insect in anger, but does that make him modern?' This and other such imponderables - including why such an intelligent man as Clint Eastwood 'should have been so inept at contraception' - are posed in this life of the only man ever to look good in a poncho. But if the book doesn't answer all questions, it does tell a decent yarn. The story of Eastwood's transformation from red-neck swimming instructor into major Hollywood player and the darling of art-house cinema is as Californian as the star's weakness for kooky blondes, extra long king-sized beds, and the hard white sands of Monterey.

FIRST OFFENCE by Nancy Taylor Rosenberg, Orion, pounds 15.99

Straight-talking, gun-toting, long- legged ex-cop Ann Carlisle has the distinction of being the most able probationary officer to make the mistake of screwing Assistant District Attorney Hopkins in the courtroom stairwell. Not as gut- churningly visceral as a Patricia D Cornwall thriller, but that's not to say Rosenberg doesn't like her body parts - severed fingers masquerade as dill pickles amongst the Diet Cokes and no orifice is left unsullied. If you get your fix from made-for-TV American mini-series, this will hit the spot.

Emma Hagerstadt

THE MARBLE KISS by Jay Rayner, Macmillan, pounds 12.99

A Florentine mystery is unleashed and a legal battle set in motion when a Renaissance sculpture of the beautiful Joanna is restored. Pitted against Latin riddles and uncooperative sources who have been dead for 500 years, a young British journalist joins forces with Joanna's descendant Isabella to investigate the case. Sex, fraud and religion combine to make a powerful, if rather predictable, thriller.

Jessica Berry

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