New novels in brief

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The Independent Culture
Floating Voter by Julian Critchley, Hutchinson pounds 13.99. The second of Julian Critchley's wickedly funny political whodunits, set at the next Tory Party Conference in Brighton, where greed, lust, power and lunch are high on the agenda. The untimely kidnapping of Jeffrey Archer (the 'Dickens de nos jours,' no less, for Kelvin MacKenzie) from one of his own Krug-swilling soirees, murder, adultery, bribery and blackmail are just some of the heady ingredients, along with a starry cast of notables (actual) and a motley selection of regional MPs, hacks and hangers-on (imaginary or thinly disguised). David Mellor must be heaving a sigh of relief that his indiscretions hit the headlines after the book had gone to press, but since the boys at Westminster will insist on living such fruity private lives, he is no doubt being stored in the Critchley archives, ready for inclusion in the next. Christie Hickman

Tommy Was Here by Simon Corrigan, Deutsch pounds 12.99. An unusual first novel about a mother coming to terms with her son rather than vice versa. Haughty, bourgeois Imogen has devoted her life to Tommy, her favourite child. A loveless but wealthy second marriage, the neglect of her beloved painting - no sacrifice has been too great. So when the neurotic brat wants to study the piano at the Conservatoire in Paris she reluctantly lets him go. Eighteen months later Mummy's boy disappears . . . Imogen sets out to find him but ends up finding herself. An atmospheric, perceptive, graceful and gripping book. Mark Sanderson

The Secret Lives of Eleanor Jenkinson by Ann Oakley, HarperCollins pounds 14.99. From the comparative calm of a French holiday, Eleanor Jenkinson, wife and mother extraordinaire, looks back across 25 years of marriage and several incarnations as the pseudonymous author of 64 notebooks, two novels and many short stories. These explorations of her inner life and other selves have been a bone of contention throughout her marriage, as she struggles to find time to write what she refers to as My Novel while juggling philandering husband, children, a job, a lover and several low-life liaisons. My Novel comes to represent Eleanor's desire for independence and identity within the marriage, but with so many balls already in the air, My Novel begins to look rather superfluous to My Life. Christie Hickman

Fou by Chris Wilson, Sinclair-Stevenson pounds 14.99. Liselotte Felice Sophia Berg is in two minds about herself. She has 'poriomania': her personality splits into the prim and proper Lise and the loud and louche Felice. The latter is a lot more fun. Now 97 and living in Islington, the game old bird looks back on her Viennese whirl of a life during the last gasp of the Austro-Hungarian empire. The 'hideously lovely' actress is shrink-rapped by Freud and sketched by Kokoschka, Schiele and Klimt. But while her body sleeps with all and sundry, her soul is tormented by childhood trauma. What appears to be a fiction of highly coloured fragments turns out to be an intricately patterned fable, and her conclusion that 'the secret of being largely good is to let yourself be bad, a little' has the stamp of hard-won truth. Mark Sanderson

The Wallpaper Fox by Morris Philipson, Carcanet pounds 8.95. Fascinating glimpse into American upper-crust life by a master of the genre. Cushioned by three centuries of old money, Connecticut department store owner Henry Warner appears to have it all - beautiful wife, wonderful kids, luxurious lifestyle. But dark forces lie in wait. Henry pockets the extra on a private cash transaction and lies about the final total; his son Jonathan kills the son of his parents' best friends in a hit and run accident; the ensuing landslide of lies and recriminations changes their lives forever. Philipson converts a plot that could have deteriorated into Peyton Place into a passionate cry of moral outrage.

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