The world’s in peril...again

Bantam £18.99

More aggressively masculine thriller-writing is hard to come by – McNab’s Nick Stone is the toughest of the tough (of British men), and his partners in crime operate in a world of violent political espionage and the most blood-letting, explosive of special ops.

With Zero Hour, the prolific McNab is back with a story that takes in the triple fireworks of British, Israeli and US forces – and includes such real-life characters as Ehud Olmert, the former Israeli prime minister. The action begins with an Israeli bombing of a Syrian nuclear installation in September 2007.

Two big events are converging on Stone. One is the bombing, which Syrian radar, supposedly state-of-the-art, had failed to pick up. Unknown to anyone but the Israelis and the radar’s manufacturers, the commercial, off-the-shelf microprocessors within it contained a remotely accessible kill switch and now, guess what, a terrorist group nearly have it in their hands. To make matters worse, British Intelligence has discovered that the same switches are at the heart of every electronic device in the UK and US arsenal.

The second event is that the beautiful twenty-year old daughter of a Moldovan businessman has gone missing from her university and British intelligence will do anything in its power to track her down. But what is the connection between the raid and the missing student? How has she come to hold the key to Britain’s security? It’s Nick Stone’s task to find out, so just why is he not on “receive” when he’s needed by Intelligence? A rampaging book with ludicrous use of real-life nations and wars, but with a pace and scope that will keep you glued to the end.
Zoe Strimpel

Workman, £12.99

“Beat11egwt foamy. Beat snowy+11/2 crmoftartar. Beat stiff + 11/2 sug. Fold+c flr/t vanil. Fill tubepan. h@325F. Cool well.” Contained in this single tweet is the recipe for Angel Food Cake, one of 1,020 that the New York-based cook and Twitter genius Maureen Evans has put together in “eat tweet”, a compilation of the recipes she’s been broadcasting as @cookbook.

There are many advantages to the book – not least that it’s light and small despite containing the information of a whole shelf’s worth. Another is the sheer curiosity of seeing how Evans boils down complicated recipes and classics such as Julia Child’s Beef Bourgignon into 140 characters. Classics abound, just boiled down to their bare essentials.

As Frank Bruni, New York’s most famous food critic, says in the Foreword: “Let Nigella Lawson tell you how to ‘serve’ something. Maureen will tell you how to ‘srv’ it, losing nothing in the process but two superfluous e’s.”

If the thought of all those abbreviations and symbols scares you, fear not: the “getting started” section includes a “chart of symbols” – a comma, for example, means “then”; it “groups actions in a step; e.g. ‘wash, chop spinach’ means wash then chop spinach.” Then there’s Decoding and Coding Recipes, too.

A brilliant little book, worth reading for its ingenuity, even if the style of recipe-deliverance doesn’t suit you. ZS

University of Buckingham Press, £10

It’s brave of any author in the modern age to begin their work by stating that there isn’t a Twitter summary for the text – anyone interested will simply have to “read the book”. But Jesse Norman, an MP, is a genuine philosopher, and – in delivering an anatomy of the “Big Society” – he is dealing in terrain all-too-susceptible to sound-bites, so his approach is wise.

Norman is the right man for the job – one of the Conservative Party’s few genuine intellectuals. His last work, “Churchill’s Legacy: the Conservative Case for the Human Rights Act”, caused a remarkable stir and this book will be no different. Many on the left are deeply suspicious that Cameron’s new agenda is simply a way of masking cuts in public spending. Were it so, it’s unlikely that the Liberal Democrats would go along for the ride. Instead, as Norman says, this “shared vision of social and economic renewal” will be “the glue that will hold the present government together.” I for one had hoped that a shared commitment to liberty might constitute that glue, but since that doesn’t look likely, Norman is undoubtedly right to look to an alternative, social set of policies.

Norman concludes that the Big Society is not opposed to public services, but rather is dedicated to improving them whilst ensuring that community work comes about as a result of goodwill rather than the motivation for a paycheck. His opposition to a paternalist conception of the state is one that many will support – and to which, if it comes truly to represent part of the Big Society’s meaning in modern life, many will be attracted.

This is a timely and well-written book, and for those interested enough to grapple with it, some form of enlightenment should be attained. Alex Deane Alex Deane is the director of Big Brother Watch, a think tank.