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Reviews round-up

The critics' verdicts on Julian Barnes and Michael Perino.

Pulse by Julian Barnes

Tim Adams at the Observer is moved by this "perfectly weighted collection" of short stories dedicated to Barnes's wife, who died in 2008. He describes how "the first nine stories, if they are love stories at all, seem to be all about disconnection. The five that make up the second half are delicately concerned with each of the senses, the curious apparatus of touch and sight and smell and hearing and taste that represent all we have to get close to another person."

Tim Martin at the Telegraph notes that Barnes's stories are about our national character but also more. "Barnes's precise, acerbic novels and stories are a million miles from the state-of-the-nation stuff that tends to dominate modern writing about 'Britishness': but in the fictional works about the psychology of these isles, they're very near the top."

D J Taylor at the Financial Times is less bowled over. He suggests that Barnes is obsessed with "stuff" before concluding: "What weakens the less successful stories in Pulse is their surfeit of information."

The Hellhound of Wall Street: How Ferdinand Pecora's Investigation of the Great Crash Forever Changed American Finance by Michael Perino

Frank Partnoy at the Financial Times is enthusiastic about the narrative power of this tranche of financial history: "Ferdinand Pecora's famous ten-day investigation into the secrets of Wall Street in 1933 makes a superb story. The heavyweight battle . . . has a hero, a villain and a million victims." He goes so far as to find inspiration -- "It is a lesson in how the government should attack financial fraud" -- and doesn't slow the praise when it comes to the credibility of the book's author: "It has an ideal storyteller in Michael Perino, a law professor who has scoured transcripts and archives for details about the plot and characters."

The Economist agrees with Partnoy that there is inspiration to be found here -- "Mr Perino's book is potent testimony to the way in which one person can help crystallise the interpretation of an event" -- yet draws disappointing parallels with investigations into our current financial crisis: "That Congress's current Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, though modelled on Pecora's, has yet to produce similar drama only reinforces the point."