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review: books.

CHILD 44 by Tom Rob Smith (Simon & Schuster, pounds 12.99) HOW do you investigate a murder when it is a crime to admit that murder can exist? Howdo you catch a murderer when the presumption of the guilt of all is the natural order? In 'Child 44', Leo Stepanovich Demidov, an up-and-coming member of the State Security Force in Stalinist Russia, originally toes the party line: there can be no murder, for murder is a symptom of a capitalist society. It marks a promising debut for Tom Rob Smith: a taut mystery set against a unique background. Let's hope some minor rough edges in the story will be worked out as this exciting new talent matures.

POE -ALIFE CUT SHORT by Peter Ackroyd (Chatto&Windus, pounds 15.99) PETER Ackroyd struggles bravely to fill out our picture of Edgar Allan Poe, traditionally considered an archetype of the romantically doomed writer. Contemporaries describe Poe as "shy, proud, sensitive and unsociable". Incident after incident shows him to be quarrelsome, litigious, always ready to blame his misfortune on anyone but himself, and incapable of staying off the bottle - his behaviour was frightful. Few biographies tell tales which marry misfortune and self-sabotage to quite this extent.

Ackroyd has done his best to assemble the facts and to tell them well.

THE DANGER ZONE by Stefan Gates (BBC Books, pounds 15.99) IN three series of Cooking In The Danger Zone, BBC presenter and food writer Stefan Gates' excursions have taken him to places where war, poverty and environmental disaster have made the everyday act of getting enough food to live far from straightforward. This book, released to coincide with a rerun of his third series in March, is essentially a travel diary featuring the highlights of two years of documentary making. Overall Stefan's book shows that there's also hope for culinary writing, which aspires to more than how to choose the choicest ingredients or the best restaurants.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Mar 2, 2008
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