Paperbacks: Imago<br/>The Queen of Subtleties<br/>Simply Heaven<br/>G&Atilde;&para;tz and Meyer<br/>My Life in Orange<br/>A Hero of Our Time<br/>Where Have All the Good Times Gone?

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The Independent Culture

According to Lord Palmerston only three people ever understood the Schleswig-Holstein affair: a German professor, who went mad, Prince Albert, who died, and Palmerston - who promptly forgot.

Imago by Eva-Marie Liffner (HARVILL £10.99 (243pp))

According to Lord Palmerston only three people ever understood the Schleswig-Holstein affair: a German professor, who went mad, Prince Albert, who died, and Palmerston - who promptly forgot. Swedish novelist Eva-Marie Liffner, who has set her latest novel in this old border territory, knows more than most. Less of a historical thriller than a slice of psychogeography, Liffner's evocative work (translated by Silvester Mazzarella) explores the more ghostly consequences of 100 years of German expansionism. The novel opens in 1938 with the discovery of a corpse in a peat bog in Southern Denmark. The body turns out to be that of a 19th-century soldier, but despite the preserving qualities of the "humus-rich" water, it's hard to tell whether he's a Dane or a Prussian. Called in to investigate are the local police chief; his side-kick, a Jewish refugee; and German archaeologist, Dr Franz Nagler. On his way to Berlin, Nagler goes missing. Sixty years on, and Danish-born Esme Olsen, the novel's prickly narrator decides to research the disappearance. Esme's journey to the coastal battlefields is as much about saying goodbye to her late father as historical conundrums. This is a story of broad horizons that brings together battlefield horrors, a touch of German Romanticism, and tales of the supernatural. EH

The Queen of Subtleties by Suzannah Dunn (HARPER PERENNIAL £7.99 (314pp))

Whether you warm to Suzannah Dunn's historical novel about life at the court of Anne Boleyn depends on whether you mind your doublet-and-hosed cast telling each other to "Fuck off"; referring to Catherine of Aragon as "Fat Cath" or the Duke of Norfolk as "an arrogant little prick". The narrative switches between the story of Anne's courtship and the unfolding love life of Lucy Cornwallis, the King's chief confectioner. As Boleyn falls for the King's blandishments, Lucy wins favour at court with her sugary "subtleties". A boisterous historical recreation. EH

Simply Heaven by Serena Mackesy (CENTURY £10.99 (502pp))

You can always rely on Serena Mackesy's heroines to be gutsy, intelligent and erring on the side of the strapping. Her latest fictional creation is no exception. A down-to-earth Australian reflexologist, Melody is holidaying by the Med when she falls for and marries English toff, Rufus. After a spur-of-the-moment marriage in sunny Malta, Overnight she finds herself the châteleine of a mouldering pile in the Cotswolds. Even more terrifying than the damp sheets and slobbery dogs is her new mother-in-law. Mackesy's Mitfordesque comedy lampoons "The Land That Time Forgot" with irreverence and warmth. A love story to sink your teeth into. EH

Götz and Meyer by David Albahari (VINTAGE £6.99 (169pp))

While perpetrating the most horrible atrocities, people still find time to brush their teeth. It's a fact that haunts the narrator of Albahari's devastating novella about the 1942 extermination of Serbia's Jews. Trying to unearth the fate of his family's female line, a middle-aged teacher tracks down the names of two truck drivers: Götz and Meyer. It was their job to pack Jews into a specially adapted truck, drive them into the woods and pump the van full of carbon monoxide. Our narrator tries to imagine the private lives of these Nazi stooges, and their ability to tune out unwanted noises from the back. EH

My Life in Orange by Tim Guest (GRANTA £7.99 (297pp))

Tim Guest was three when he found his mother dyeing her clothes orange in the bath. "She told me she wasn't called Anne any more," says Guest. "Her new name was 'Vismaya' and it meant 'Wonder'. I asked if I could still call her 'Mum'." His mother jets off to an ashram in India, leaving Tim with his father in Leeds. Guest's moving memoir is a tale of breathtaking parental irresponsibility and sudden moves from one commune to another. It is also a tale of corruption on a mass scale. Even now, he tells us, the tendons in his calf are tight "from a lifetime of standing in tiptoes, looking for my mother in an orange crowd." CP

A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov (HESPERUS £7.99 (169pp))

This 1840 landmark of Russian fiction created one of the most seductively immoral anti-heroes in literature. Mad, bad and very dangerous to know, Pechorin makes his rake's progress through the Caucasus, breaking hearts and vows with a backdrop of high peaks and low deeds. In Hugh Aplin's galloping new translation, the colonial context looms large. Pechorin takes and dumps women much as Imperial Russia had its way with the wild Caucasus and "cursed Chechens". BT

Where Have All the Good Times Gone? by Louis Barfe (ATLANTIC £9.99 (402pp))

Scholarly but mischievous, this splendidly full history of the recorded-music business from Edison to iPod sings a song about bemused, belated industry types running to catch up with the artists, gadgets and fans. Great producers do come out covered in glory. As for the dumb, rapacious bosses: the "Mafia-friendly" chief of one company sums them up. He once told an artist asking for royalties to try Buckingham Palace. BT

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