The Spoiler, By Annalena McAfee

Sniffing for secrets can kick up a stink

Annalena McAfee's marvellous satire centres on two characters: Honor Tait, a legendary war reporter with showbiz connections; and Tamara Sim, an ambitious gossip columnist sent to interview her for a profile piece.

Tait is a diffident subject, so Tamara starts sniffing around for secrets with which to spice up her article, only to uncover the perfect red-top story.

The novel is cunningly plotted and satisfyingly nuanced. This is not (just) an indictment of press sleaze. Indeed, as McAfee alternates between veteran journalist and upstart hack, she suggests an equivalence of sorts, implying that Tait's dispatches from the front line and Tamara's stories of fading celebs are propelled by the same voyeuristic impulse.