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MARITIME
Flinders
Rob Mundle
Hachette, $49.99

Rob Mundle is a master of the maritime narrative, non-fiction section. Now he considers Matthew Flinders, the man who mapped Australia. The tale has been told before, but Mundle presents a drama of adventure and shipwreck. He also presents a man who is conscientious, modest, talented and has an attendant cat. Mundle's focus is on the exploration, but an admirable and likeable character is also drawn. Recommended.

NOVEL
The Cleaner of Chartres
Salley Vickers
Viking, $29.99

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This novel suggests veteran author Paul Gallico: a tale of the French, told with a light touch by an anglophone. Characters intertwine around the famous cathedral. Central is Agnes, a mysterious young woman who finds work as a cleaner in the town, but who has a secret. Vickers presents a series of fallible but basically good-hearted personalities, and the setting is picturesque. Amiable.

CRIME
Hard Labour
Various authors
Crime Factory, $13.99

Crime Factory is a rare (Melbourne) market for crime short stories, and this is its second anthology. The focus is on working-class and drug-related crime. Leigh Redhead writes of dope growers in hippie-land; David Whish-Wilson of a speed cook. Some stories are less masculine: Helen Fitzgerald depicts dying with dignity and its consequences. A mixed bag, but there are some gems.

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BOOK THAT CHANGED ME: Fiona Horne

The Dictionary

When I was 10, I set a goal to use five new words a day. Then I started to collect dictionaries — one of my prized possessions was a Webster's New World Dictionary published in 1920. The meanings and uses of words charmed me (and sometimes horrified me!). I was drawn back to reading dictionaries when my band, Def FX, broke up. After seven years with the boys, my vocabulary had diminished to, "Yeah, f---, ya know." So, again, I set a goal to introduce five more eloquent words into my daily speech.

Fiona Horne was the singer in Def FX and has written several books on witchcraft. Her latest book is Witch: A Summerland Mystery (Allen & Unwin, $16.99).