Paperbacks: Blood Kin, by Ceridwen Dovey

Political parables can be hard going, but South African-born Dovey keeps the reader on board. In an unnamed country, a ruler known as "the President" is overthrown by "the Commander".

The narrators are three of the President's staff: a chef, a portrait painter and a barber. Their accounts are further fleshed out by their wives and daughters. In portentous prose, each flunky is caught enjoying his own moment of power: the portraitist etching in his boss's every new wrinkle, the chef slicing up live abalone and the barber enjoying the President's exposed throat. Sex and sadism prove close allies in this mature and impressive debut.