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Trans Am by Rob Ryan.

Rob Ryan is the closest thing I've yet seen to Raymond Chandler. He writes tough, gritty thrillers with plenty of atmosphere and tight, overlapping dialogue. A great book to take with you on holiday!

It's just been published by Headline (yes, my publishers I know, but that's got nothing to do with it, honest J) and will set you back a modest £9.99. Headline/Feature ISBN 0-7472-7199-2.

The Map that Changed the World by Simon Winchester.

Here's something along not totally dissimilar lines to Architects of Eternity, but whereas I skimmed over William Smith en route to the high-tech aspects of the new science of fossils Simon Winchester has concentrated on Smith's life and work. Smith was the visionary who developed the first geological map - which shows where rocks of different age 'crop-out' over the surface of the land. He was unsung in his own time until almost the end of his life but eventually received some of the recognition that he deserved. This is a great book, full of detail about 19th century science. Winchester writes with great grace and clarity.

Sensibly priced by Penguin/Viking at £12.99. ISBN 0-670-88407-3.

Kolymsky Heights By Lionel Davidson

My agent put me on to this one. Wow! What a book! This is a thriller too but quite different in style to Rob Ryan. Kolymsky Heights is what I call a 'high-concept' thriller with some science and plenty of geographical and technical detail in it. For these reasons it is intensely absorbing. If you ever worried about what the Russkies were doing in Northern Siberia in the bad old days of the Cold War this is the book to fuel some retroactive paranoia. It has several maps in it - and I for one LOVE thrillers with maps in them. I see that Lionel Davidson just got the Golden Dagger Award for a lifetimes achievement in thriller writing and that his publishers have just re-issued his entire back list. Kolymsky Heights is out there - grab it!!

Published by William Heinemann/Mandarin at £5.99. ISBN 0-7493-1713-2

Almost Like a Whale By Steve Jones

This is destined to be a popular science classic. The concept is very, very clever. Update Darwin's 'Origin of Species' from the perspective of late 20th century science and use examples that Darwin would have had no way of knowing about (like the AIDS virus) to illustrate the principles of natural selection. Evolutionary theory has come a long way in the last 140 years and getting your head round it can be pretty taxing. Well done Steve Jones who manages to package state-of-the-art thinking into a very readable and enjoyable package.

Random House/Anchor, £8.99. ISBN 1-862-30025-9.



Richard Corfield 2003 in association with pedalo.co.uk