- John Maynard Keynes: The Economist as Saviour 1920-37 by Robert Skidelsky, Papermac pounds 14.99. A self-regulating market was the bedrock of Victorian and Edwardian society, and it withered in the gunfire of the Somme. With it went the old certainties, including the virtues of stable currencies and full employment. This volume (the second of three) tells how Keynes saved capitalism while simultaneously trying to reinvent some kind of economic morality. But the saviour was spurred on by an embarrassing problem: he may have hated capitalism - for Skidelsky, Keynes's "most poetical pages" are those deploring the tendency of money to become a value in itself - but he feared a total economic collapse and ensuing barbarism even more. This biography is not just the mid-life of a remarkable man, but a challenging history of economic ideas whose continuing relevance hardly needs a highlighting pen.
- Complicity by Iain Banks, Abacus pounds 6.99. A psychopath with attitude is on the loose, terminating power-abusing millionaires in ingeniously appropriate (and sadistic) ways. Cameron, the star investigative reporter on a Scottish daily paper, is smart, witty, leftish and highly thought of; he also uses drugs, is addicted to computer games and plays out S & M fantasies with his married girlfriend. It is a moral ambivalence which points the direction of the plot. Cameron's success turns sour when he finds himself accused of being the killer. Actually, this is more than a routine page-turner: by the end we find the gap between our mouths and our morals is painfully and edifyingly exposed.
- The Codebreakers: The Inside Story of Bletchley Park ed F H Hinsley & Alan Stripp, Oxford pounds 7.99. Anyone who saw David Hare's angry TV play Licking Hitler will be interested in the professional and domestic secrets of the country house where German codes were broken by a few brilliant minds and a lot of slave labour. In Hare's version there were, on the one hand, the assembled geniuses, maths dons and chess players, cracking codes and clever jokes and having a spiffing war; on the other, the hundreds of "girls" who made it all possible, sweating endlessly over their decrypting machines under a stifling blanket of security. Hinsley and Stripp have assembled 30 reminiscers - most geniuses, a few slaves, all highly informative.
- Zhirinovsky: The Little Black Book by Graham Frazer and George Lancelle, Penguin pounds 5.99. The man who said "call me Hitler" appears on the cover of this book like a vampire about to take a bite out of Mother Russia's neck. The authors' clear intention in collecting and glossing these quotes is to show that Zhirinovsky (who pulled in 26 per cent of the vote in Yeltsin's general election) is not just a clown, but dangerous. His demagogue's flow of verbal confidence is untroubled by considerations of truth and consistency: he says what he believes his audiences want to hear - viz, Russia is still a superpower and must expand again; the Slav peoples are one nation and Russia is the natural leader; the army must be built up; crime must be dealt with or (to put that another way) minorities must be dealt with; authority is self- legitimising. One quote in particular strikes a chill note of recognition: "In Russia there will be order, but only our order. …