CONTENT Adam Dalgliesh and his team must figure out who murdered a novelist on Combe, a heavily secure island retreat for important people off the Cornish coast.
GIST Could this be the last P.D. James mystery? It has the feel of a final chapter, as the 85-year-old master brings to resolution matters in Dalgliesh's personal life. Her novels are set apart by graceful writing, fully realized characters sympathetically portrayed, and a God-defined moral universe in which they operate.
CONTENT A frustrated Manhattanite, trapped in the Connecticut suburbs with three children and an inattentive husband, discovers a dead body and assorted sordid secrets.
GIST What happens when the queen of American chick lit writes a mystery? You get humor, romance, kids, dead bodies, close escapes, and a dollop of feminist angst. Ms. Weiner's victim is the ghostwriter for a prominent right-winger with a column titled "The Good Mother." Of course she's not one, but this story thread allows Ms. Weiner to take potshots at Christians and conservatives.
CONTENT In this final Mitford tale, Father Tim is charged with reopening Holy Trinity, a long-closed mountaintop church, where he meets new friends, keeps the old, and fills his days praising God and doing His bidding.
GIST The book bursts with characters who cycle through in episodes ranging from several paragraphs to whole chapters. Some appear only in e-mail snippets. Ms. Karon zooms in on this one particular place and the people involved in Father Tim's life, but she occasionally zooms out to show that this little story is part of the biggest story, which will go on long after Father Tim is gone.
CONTENT When his father dies, retired journalist Stuart Dubinsky discovers a manuscript written during World War II that reveals a side of the father that his son never knew.
GIST Mr. Turow's gripping tale emphasizes the father's wartime account, which includes vivid descriptions of Battle of the Bulge fighting. Mr. Turow bucks today's ironic sensibility to show that some wars are worth fighting; memorable characters emerge as he portrays the hardships of fighting and the virtues of normality.
Modern jazz great Wynton Marsalis collaborated with poster artist Paul Rogers and jazz historian Phil Schaap on this beautiful Jazz ABZ (Candlewick, 2005). For each letter of the alphabet Mr. Marsalis crafts a poem, using unique poetic forms to suggest the artist or the style of his work. Sometimes the poster-style illustrations become part of the poems. The book includes biographical notes on each musician and detailed descriptions of the forms, including lesser-known ones like skeltonic verse, now used by hip-hop artists. Although a picture book, Jazz ABZ will best be appreciated by older students or those who love jazz or the interplay of language and music.
Good King Wenceslas by John M. Neale and Tim Ladwig (Eerdmans, 2005) is a beautifully illustrated version of the Christmas carol, based on the true story of a 10th-century Czech king moved with compassion for a poor peasant. This book will bring alive to children the song and its underlying message.