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LAMBS TO THE SLAUGHTER by Ted Oliver & Ramsay Smith, Warner, pounds 4.99

By a creepy coincidence, the picture on the jacket of this account of a child-murder conspiracy shows a man holding a young boy by the hand, as if caught by a video camera. But it is now almost 10 years since Mark Tildesley was led away from a fair in Wokingham to feed the gruesome appetites of the men described in this book. Two Daily Mirror journalists describe both the crimes and the hunt (Operation Orchid) for the perpetrators. They are able to include excerpts from the notebook of a condemned sex offender, who was forced to share a cell with one of the child-killers and was thus able to record the man's horrendous confessions. It's an ugly book, written at times with an unpleasant fervour; but these were ugly deeds. And it's disquieting to realise that the names of the young boys who died are not remembered. This gives some resonance to the poem written by one of the policeman: 'Who will cry for Orchid's children / long into the night / Who will cry for Orchid's children / with tears kept out of sight. / I will.'

CONVERSATION WITH GOYA by Ivo Andric, Tr. Celia Hawkesworth, Menard, pounds 7

Ivo Andric is Yugoslavia's only Nobel Prize-winning writer, and these fragments from his notebooks show him to be a keen thinker as well. An imaginary and nicely dramatised conversation with Goya turns into a monologue by the painter, and allows Andric to ruminate on life and art with suggestive and morose depth: 'I am always astonished and pity myself when I think how little knowledge and how many prejudices and dangerous demands I once brought into the world.' Finally, in a series of sharp jottings, Andric unburdens himself as directly as he can, through a number of abbreviated squibs. Such as this: 'A father complains of his son who is lazy and good-for-nothing and has set off on the wrong path, squandering his inheritance and abusing other members of the family, including the father himself. 'Had I fathered a rock, I would have had something to sit on. As it is, I have nothing.' '

SHAMPOO PLANET by Douglas Coupland, Simon & Schuster, pounds 14.99

In this thin little coming-of-age novel, the abiding mystery is not the meaning of life or the possibility of joy therein, but why Coupland created such an unsympathetic narrator. Gone are the days of soulful rebels and charming loners: Tyler Johnson collects shampoo, hair-gel and styling mousse, sells Chanel T- shirts on campus, gets on well with his mother and studies hotel management. Los Angeles may be stuffed with Tyler Johnsons, but why we need a novel about him is anyone's guess.

A LAZY EYE by Mary Morrissey, Jonathan Cape, pounds 8.99

These finely tuned stories touch on hidden pains - from secret pregancies to strange diseases - and unexpected pleasures - from the indulging of kleptomania to middle-aged love affairs - in a wonderfully generous view of the world and its underdogs. Morrissey's precise style, filled with oddly poignant descriptive quirks, is well suited to the short story form.

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