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* Started Early, Took My Dog, by Kate Atkinson, in hardback by Doubleday, priced pounds 18.99.

MUCH like Ian Rankin's central character, Inspector Rebus, Jackson Brodie in Kate Atkinson's latest work of fiction is a quasi-intellectual rebel with a dark past.

But, unlike Rebus, Brodie is a rebel without a real cause - an ex-detective floating from one case to another.

He spends this outing searching for a client's lost identity - unwittingly bumbling on to various tangled tales of fraud, kidnapping and corruption.

However, this is no paintby-numbers crime thriller, but a more complex animal altogether.

Setting her story in 1970s Leeds and the present day, Atkinson - author of Behind The Scenes At The Museum - uses the crime format to examine the moral ambiguities of Britain's recent past.

From the Yorkshire Ripper case to New Labour's failings and police corruption, very little escapes her keen eye. Fans and new readers alike will enjoy a plot that is as intelligent as it is gripping.

7/10 * You're The One That I Don't Want, by Alexandra Potter, in paperback original by Hodder, priced pounds 6.99. THE latest offering from Alexandra Potter, who has written for magazines such as Elle, is a jolly tale about the perils of modern love.

A wistful escapade set in Venice and New York, the book charts the story of Lucy - a young artist from Manchester who works in a small and sadly undistinguished Manhattan gallery. Lucy soon realises that Nate - her American television producer lover - is not "the one". As she attempts to get rid of him, the story descends into quality farce, la Alan Ayckbour n.

This novel is rich with believable cohort characters - including Lucy's boss Magda: a stereotypical yet delightful Jewish divorcee.

The story moves along swiftly to a satisfying and predictable conclusion. A commendable holiday read.

6/10 * At Sea, by Laurie Graham, in paperback original by Quercus, priced pounds 12.99. THE acclaimed author of Life According To Lubka returns with a novel set on a cruise ship sailing from Istanbul to Venice.

Lady Enid is the long-suffering wife of Professor Bernard Finch - a handsome, highly intelligent scholar of the Classics who gives lectures on-board cruises.

For 23 years, Enid has stood by him and been at his beck and call. This is the case until they sail on Golden Memories and encounter American Frankie Glesson - who believes Bernard is his childhood neighbour.

But the professor denies all knowledge and holes up in his cabin to avoid Glesson. Of course, he expects Enid to keep him company but the lady has other ideas.

Out on her own, Enid discovers the internet and forms friendships with fellow travellers - much to her husband's chagrin.

At Sea is an often overly descriptive meander that has you championing Enid and her new-found independence. 5/10 NON-FICTION * Six: A History Of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service. Part 1: Murder And Mayhem 1909-1939, by Michael Smith, hardback by Dialogue, priced pounds 19.99.

AT A time when the newspapers have been full of stories of sleeper cells and spy exchanges between the US and Russia, the timing of the release of Six couldn't be better. …