Smut: Two Unseemly Stories
by Alan Bennett, Allen and Unwin, $30
Reviewed by: Graeme Barrow

This little book contains two short stories - "unseemly" ones, the sub-title tells us. They are somewhat naughty, but never vulgar. The first is

The Greening of Mrs Donaldson

. Mrs Donaldson is a widow, in her 50s, who never got much joy from her late husband. She takes in a couple of lodgers and is drawn into a world of voyeurism, which changes her attitudes and her life dramatically.

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The next is

The Shielding of Mrs Forbes

- a married woman dotes on her only son, a good-looking young man who works in a bank. She is appalled that he is about to marry a woman she regards as beneath him. But why is he getting married when he is gay? These stories are wise, witty and wicked. Thoroughly recommended.


Altar of Bones

by Philip Carter, Simon & Schuster (Penguin), $40

Reviewed by: Kevin Ball

"Tell no one, show no one, trust no one" is the message inherited by Zoe Dmitroff when she is handed the mantle of  keeper of a secret so critical it could change the world.

The problem is that Zoe, the last in a long line of women who have died to keep the secret - centred on the legendary Altar of Bones concealed in a cave in Siberia - doesn't even know what she is protecting.

What she does discover is that the mad monk Rasputin, Marilyn Monroe and John F. Kennedy are all victims of the secret.

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Former soldier Ry O'Malley comes to her aid as enemies  close in  and bullets fly, but can she trust  him? She can't even trust her own mother, a descendant of a long line of  keepers.

Altar of Bones

will keep you on the edge of your seat.


The Troubled Man
by Henning Mankel, Random House, $40
Reviewed by: Graeme Barrow

Many avid readers probably think popular Swedish crime writing began with Stieg Larsson and his

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

. Not so. Mankel is the "godfather" of the genre, having sold more than 30 million books worldwide, and his lugubrious detective hero, Inspector Kurt Wallander, is arguably the most popular policeman in world fiction.

In this, the 10th and last book in the series, the "other" grandparents of his daughter Linda have disappeared. Wallander must go back, into the past and into history, even touching on the most famous unsolved crime in Swedish history - the assassination of prime minister Olof Palme in 1986.

It's an absorbing read, laced with typical Sandinavian gloom.


The Great Wrong War
by Stevan Eldred-Grigg Random House, $55

Reviewed by: Iain Duffy

An academic book that contains many home truths about why prior to  World War I New Zealanders "enjoyed a higher standard of living than any other land", and after the war what happened.  Before the war a German writer quoted  New Zealand as being "the richest and the most advanced state in the world". After the war, it lost its standing; never again to achieve top spot.

The seeds of self-destruction were planted as early as 1900 when the Liberal government brought in a war law which gave the state the power to conscript every young man for military training. The question was asked:   "Are we to seize on their bodies and ... send them away to death and mutilation?" A few years later, New Zealand knew  the answer: yes.

You Belong to Me
by Karen Rose, Hachette, $29.99
Reviewed by: Julie Taylor

Dead bodies begin turning up around forensic pathologist Lucy Trask - and not just in the morgue.

You Belong to Me

starts with Dr Trask stumbling across a body on her morning run. It appears to be a beloved neighbour, but turns out to be somebody else, from her past. But  Dr Trask is not quite who she appears to be either.

More bodies follow and she teams up with the enigmatic Detective JD Fitzpatrick to find out what links the murders and how they relate  to her.  The pair quickly form a  non-professional relationship, which gets in the way of an otherwise gripping story with  well-written and  developed characters.

Periodic glimpses into the killer's perspective add a cat-and-mouse feel to the hunt.