Archive for Sunday, September 19, 1999

PAPERBACKS

September 19, 1999

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Instruments of Night

Thomas H. Cook

Paul Graves, who writes dark crime novels set in 19th-century New York, is asked to investigate the 50-year-old murder of a teen-age girl at the Riverwood estate and then write a plausible, if fictional account of the crime. The solitary Graves, haunted by the murder of his own sister when he was a child, spins out any number of scenarios involving those at Riverwood that fateful summer and buried family secrets. Edgar Award-winner Cook ("The Chatham School Affair") teases readers throughout the evocative narrative with tantalizing bits of Graves' own past, but he also saves the best -- and most shocking -- revelations until practically the last page.

Ditch Rider

Judith Van Gieson

In this well-crafted, credible entry in the series featuring wry Albuquerque lawyer-sleuth Neil Hamel, gang violence has become an accepted way of life in the neighborhood where Neil and her lover, the Kid, have just moved. Her 13-year-old neighbor, Cheyanne Morales, has admitted to shooting a 15-year-old gang member, but neither the police nor Neil are certain the girl is the real culprit -- which is why Neil puts her own life on the line, driving down some mean streets crisscrossed by irrigation ditches, searching for a possible witness.

Shaman's Game

James D. Doss

Doss mixes mysticism with murder in his series starring Charlie Moon, a police officer on the Ute reservation in southern Colorado, and his elderly Aunt Daisy, a shaman who has disturbing visions. In this haunting tale with a serpentine plot, it's almost time for the annual Sun Dance, a sacred ritual shadowed this year by a couple of deaths at recent ceremonies. Although heat exhaustion appears to be the cause of the dancers' unexpected exit to the underworld, Moon and Daisy suspect otherwise.

No More Dying Then

Murder Being Once Done

Ruth Rendell

In these early, reissused entries in the venerable Inspector Wexford series, Rendell displays her psychological acuity, her talent for devising cunning plots. In the first book, Wexford's search for two kidnapped children turns into a murder investigation. The second book finds an ailing Wexford defying his doctor's orders to puzzle over the baffling murder of a young girl in a cemetery.

My Heart Laid Bare

Joyce Carol Oates

A deconsecrated church in upstate New York provides the initial setting for Oates' compelling historical novel of a family for whom deception is second nature. At the end of the 19th century, patriarch Abraham Licht brings his household of motherless children to Muirkirk, from which he runs complicated con games. Sons Thurston and Harwood, along with daughter Millicent, are all adept at "the Game," but its real star is Elisha, a young black man adopted by Abraham. Along with the Lichts' schemes to rig race tracks, locate lost heirs and woo rich widows are some family secrets that make the novel an appropriate successor to Oates' earlier gothic novels, "Bellefleur" and "Mysteries of Winterthurn."

Into the Wilderness

Sara Donati

Forbidden love, family betrayal and obsessive greed all play into Donati's epic tale set in the 18th-century American frontier. Her two protagonists are English-born spinster Elizabeth Middleton and Nathaniel Banner, a white man raised by the Mohawks. When Elizabeth learns of her family's plot to marry her off to a neighboring doctor, she makes plans of her own, fleeing into the wilderness with Nathaniel. Their adventures make for a literate page-turner.

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