Snap Judgment


GB84 by David Peace

Here. He. Goes." Too many paragraphs in Peace's book begin this way. Such postmodern cant has no place in a work by one of Granta magazine's 2003 Best of Young British Novelists. Nor does the extended-text-message style do justice to Peace's topic: the 1984-85 coal miners' strike that Margaret Thatcher crushed, forever weakening the British trade-union movement. "GB84's" only saving grace is a noir mood that captures the high-stakes brutality, and finality, of the confrontation. What. A. Shame.

The Mystery of Olga Chekhova by Antony Beevor

The niece of Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, Olga Chekhova was a German film star who was personally feted by Hitler and Goebbels. Her brother, composer Lev Knipper, was commissioned by the Soviets to assassinate the Nazi leader, believed certain to visit Moscow if it fell to the Wehrmacht in 1941. But the irony of this incredible family history is not as great as it seems, argues historian Beevor, because Olga was actually a Soviet "sleeper" spy herself, just waiting for the word from Moscow. In the Chekhov clan Beevor has found an exciting and accessible window onto the complexities of wartime Europe.

The Second Assistant by Clare Naylor and Mimi Hare

It is tempting to try to call this book a blend of chick lit and Hollywood-insider tell-all, but the harder you try, the harder it fights back. Plucky heroine? Check. Lots of tales of Hollywood snarkiness and nuttiness? Of course. But this story of a power agent's lowly second assistant has a lot of heart to go with its smarts, and the authors know what so many people overlook: that just because Hollywood sells fantasy doesn't mean the spell it casts isn't real, even to the people who work there. Besides, how can you not like a book in which the resident psychiatrist is also a psychic?