''Means of Ascent,'' ''Every Spy a Prince,'' ''Mary Reilly,'' and ''Leap Year'' are hot this week

Means of Ascent: The Years of Lyndon Johnson Robert A. Caro
In this 1990 installment, the second of Caro’s projected four-volume biography, Johnson emerges as bitter and conniving in his 1948 Senate race against former Texas Governor Coke Stevenson. Furious in pace and ravishing as entertainment, Means is marred only by Caro’s tendency to allegorize, with Johnson the perennial villain. A-

Every Spy a Prince Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman
A best-selling history of the Mossad, Israel’s efficient intelligence organization. Newly revised (including the story of how the CIA turned to the Mossad for information on Saddam Hussein), Raviv and Melman’s book reads like a backstage history of Israel with fascinating stuff on the global community of spies. A

Mary Reilly Valerie Martin
Mary Reilly is a maid in the home of one Dr. Jekyll, and this perfectly plotted little novel captures her Victorian world. Martin writes better than Anne Rice but shares her lusty, gothic imagination and psychological bent. Passion lurks beneath every antimaccasar. A

Leap Year Steve Erickson
If Erickson’s strange and challenging novels ((Tours of the Black Clock, Between Stations) aren’t your thing, here’s a chance to savor one of our most inventive writers in a more accessible mode. Leap Year, a journey through the 1988 presidential campaign, is surreal, original nonfiction, a portrait of a nation estranged from its myths and dreams.