Sex Crimes by Jenefer Shute, Vintage pounds 6.99. Jenefer Shute's first novel, Lifesize, described the horrors of anorexia. Her second grapples with stalking. Christine Chandler, a successful attorney in her late thirties, has been charged with a gruesome assault on her 26-year-old boyfriend: she scratched his eyes out, leaving him blind. The tabloids have dubbed her "The Boston Fury", and the defence team has encouraged her to record the events leading up to the attack. Shute is expert on the wilder shores of obsessive behaviour, and gets so far inside the head of her deranged heroine the reader becomes entangled in her web of paranoia and self-deceit. The accumulation of evidence and unwitting self-revelation is beautifully paced, and Chandler's disintegration into madness is coolly observed.
Fermat's Last Theorem by Amir D Aczel, Penguin pounds 5.99. Even the innumerate will be engrossed by Aczel's account of the thrilling chase to the "Himalayan peak of number theory". In 1637 the French mathematician Pierre de Fermat supposedly devised a formula that proved whereas many square numbers can be broken down into the sum of two other squares (eg five squared equals three squared plus four squared), the same cannot be done for cubes or higher powers. Unfortunately, his "truly marvellous proof" was too large for the margin he was writing in to contain. Over 300 years later the Cambridge mathematician Andrew Wiles presented a 200-page proof of Fermat's Last Theorem. But the story doesn't end there. Not long after, a publishing house devised a formula for turning Wiles's seven-year quest into a bestseller. The result is hardcore maths made accessible and entertaining.
Wilson's Island by Stephen Blanchard, Vintage pounds 6.99. Shiftless, lowlife Ralph, a recovering alcoholic and superlative darts player, returns to his family home in a godforsaken coastal town. His father, Cliff, is a dodgy, secondhand whatever-he-can-get-his-hands-on dealer, and his doting grandmother is a housebound mystic and cat-lover. Not much seems to happen in these wasted lives, love is an unknown quantity, laughter is tinged with cynicism, and dark family secrets are left to fester like unemptied wheely-bins. The dialogue is cryptic - full of menacing, Pinteresque silences and oblique references - and the atmosphere suffocating. Blanchard (of Gagarin and I fame) leaves everything unsaid to great effect. A compelling evocation of fragmented family life in a desolate, post-recession hellhole.
These Demented Lands by Alan Warner. Vintage pounds 5.99. In Morvern Callar, Warner established himself as an accomplished writer of painstakingly rendered hallucinatory prose. In this follow-up novel, Morvern reappears, adrift in a surreal landscape borrowed from the Hebridean isles. She is cool, illiterate and rootless. This time, Warner places her on "the Outer Rim of everything", and the people she meets act as though they know it. But Morvern's unfazed. New Age travellers, the devil's advocate and a crazed troupe of cattle rovers do nothing to disrupt her poise. The novel is set at the end of the 20th century in the Drome Hotel, and one of its guests, an aircrash investigator, takes his turn in narrating the action. Meanwhile, DJ Cormorant is organising "The Big One", the rave to end all raves. At this point, we miss the piquancy of Morvern's vernacular and Warner loses his bearings (plot is not his strong point). Of more interest is the constant deferral of his readers' expectations. As Morvern writes to her father: "Forgive my elliptical style: I want you to die in the maximum possible confusion."Reuse content