VIDEO Eraser Arnold Schwarzenegger returns in the kind of wise-cracking role that has made him a millionaire actor despite never really having acted. Once again, the Austrian Oak's face barely shows any emotions as he blasts away at American agents and politicians gone bad. Schwarzenegger plays John Kruger, an Eraser, a special agent with the Federal Witness Protection Programme. His job is to help witnesses by rubbing out their pasts and giving them new identities so they can start lives free from the threat of reprisals. In real life that probably involves reams of paperwork and years of bureaucracy, but in Hollywood, it is akin to being 007. Kruger can kill with his hands, his feet, his head and even his belt buckle. When we first meet him he is sorting out a group of low lives who are trying to terminate one of their members for blowing the whistle on some mafia bosses. After saving the witness and his wife from a fiery death, Kruger is then assigned to erase the identity of Lee Cullen (Vanessa Williams), who has proof that a major arms manufacturer is about to sell the latest in hi-tech weaponry to a Russian arms dealer. He soon discovers he is at the wrong end of a conspiracy: he is framed as a traitor and has to take on his department, the FBI and a mob of arms dealers. BOOKS Death In The Andes Mario Vargas Llosa (Faber and Faber) Set in the Peruvian Andean hinterland in a dying and embittered community, the book is part detective novel, part political satire and part black comedy. Peruvian society is vivisected by Mario Vargas Llosa's incisive pen and seen to be a corrupt, loyal, passionate, evil yet wonderful paradox. Vargas Llosa uses a number of narrators to skip from situation to situation, and from one point of view to another. The novel takes on the language of each narrator, allowing us into their minds and presenting us with myriad sub-plots and motivations and flitting from one time frame to the next with an ease that shows the author's enormous skill. The violence in Death In The Andes is shocking, but never gratuitous. We learn from the horrors of this novel about the tortured souls of those who perpetrate such violence, and we understand why they have no compassion and why they have become beasts. We do not forgive them for what they do, but we are led to understand their blind anger. Told with the author's trademark elegance, Death In The Andes offers a journey which at the same time is a map of the brutalised human heart. Talking To The Dead Helen Dunmore (Penguin) Like many English female writers, Helen Dunmore writes of passion disastrously kept under wraps with a detachment which is at times perturbing in its objectivity. This is the story of two sisters who have been deeply affected and emotionally bound together by the death of their baby brother. Nina is a free spirit, a photographer who refuses to take on the responsibilities of motherhood and family. She is also deeply insecure and in many ways jealous of the more conventional Isabel. Isabel is unhappily married to a bully called Richard, a businessman who has no time for his newborn son. Isabel dotes on her son, but fatigued by a difficult birth, has invited her sister round to help out. Nina's insecurities and Richard's selfishness see them enter into an affair which threatens to rekindle memories capable of destroying both women. A powerful, haunting and chilling work. RECORDS Brighten The Corners Pavement (Matador Records) Pavement seem to have had one thing on their mind when they went out to make this record: to sound as much like the early Velvet Underground as possible. They succeed, which is a good or bad thing depending on how you feel about early Velvet Underground. All the ingredients are there, from an arhythmic, atonal vocal delivery to a human being who drums like a drum box, and guitar solos that test the envelope of tonal music. The trouble is the work was groundbreaking when Velvet Underground were knocking them out three decades ago and novelty was what validated at least 50 per cent of Velvet's work; what Pavement have done today can no longer be described as novel. That said, there are a number of fun tracks on this CD and Pavement's quirkiness (borrowed though much of it is) keeps them clear of pretentiousness.