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Recent crime novels | 1 February 2003

For the last few years Ruth Rendell has used her Chief Inspector Wexford detective novels to explore social issues that have been much in the papers. This has unfortunately made for unoriginal story lines with obvious villains in an all too familiar terrain. It is a pleasure therefore to be able to report that The

Defying vertigo and the void

It is lucky for us common mortals that Philippe Petit is a tightrope-walker who can write. Blondin, the funambule of Niagara Falls (1859), left nothing but interviews, so that we know very little about his character. Like Philippe, he forsook his native France following success in the US but, instead of staying on, moved to

The high price of civil security

Hobbes is one of the very greatest political philosophers of all times, Noel Malcolm one of his most highly esteemed contemporary interpreters. Many have written on Hobbes, but few have had the wealth and depth of historical knowledge, the linguistic and bibliographical skills and, most significantly, the philosophical rigorousness which Malcolm deploys consistently in Aspects

The charm of the commonplace

Where other contemporary American novelists, mandarin or popular, like to write about war in South-east Asia, corruption in the boardroom, organised crime and the alienated condition of the human soul, Nicholson Baker prefers to tackle the truly important issues of our time: how to lift a pair of underpants with your toes, how to make

Every fair from fair sometime declines

Polly Toynbee describes herself as ‘profoundly anti-religious’, but she had the energy and curiosity to accept an ingenious challenge from a group of Christians. Church Action on Poverty wanted her to spend Lent trying to live on the minimum wage of £4.10 an hour. She duly moved out of her comfortable house and into a

Our longest peace

Has anybody ever struggled for Europe? They might have struggled for British Ulster or Free France or the village green in Moreton-in-Marsh. But Europe? There are supposed to be some people around who, when they’re asked where they’re from, trumpet, ‘I’m European!’; if they really exist, they’re doing a good job of keeping themselves to