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Notable books

Notable Books | Four mystery novels reviewed by Susan Olasky

Issue: "The Haiti quake," Feb. 13, 2010

Beguiled

Although classic mystery writers rarely included romance in their stories, more recent writers blur the genres. In Beguiled, an engaging mystery/romance set in Charleston, a reporter who aspires to write books sees a series of robberies as a chance at a big story and a book contract. He figures a waifish dog walker who works for most of the victimized families is somehow connected to the case-maybe she's even the culprit. As he gets more involved, he starts to fall for her and lose his objectivity. The story, well-written and well-plotted, should please both romance readers and fans of more hard-boiled fare.

Arctic Blue Death

Meg Harris is semi-estranged from her affluent family, but when her mother receives an anonymous message, she asks Meg to investigate. The message, which turns out to be not the first, hints that Meg's father, believed to have died in an airplane crash in Canada's far north country decades earlier, might still be alive. Harlick expertly weaves history, geography, and a knowledge of native art and culture into this mystery involving possible forgeries, mistaken identity, and betrayal. Meg is a troubled amateur sleuth, lousy at love and with a strained relationship to alcohol and food, who gets sucked into a mystery and risks death-the kind of story that Dick Francis liked to tell.

This Thing of Darkness

Ottawa police inspector Michael Green is a workaholic with two children and a wife who wants another. Although he's supposed to be supervising the department, he gets personally drawn into the investigation of the murder of an elderly Jewish man from his father's neighborhood. Green's over-involvement affects his family and the people under him. When suspicion falls immediately on a group of North African Muslim youth, caught on video in the area at the time of death, he fears his investigators will ignore other possibilities. Fradkin's gritty, well-told story explores changes in Canadian society. It's urban and raw, with language to match.

9 Dragons

Michael Connelly, who knows how to construct a well-written, page-turning cop drama, has L.A. police detective Harry Bosch out to solve the murder of an Asian liquor store owner. The case appears to be tied to Hong Kong criminal gangs known as triads, so when Bosch's daughter-who lives in Hong Kong with his ex-wife-is kidnapped, he assumes the triads are involved. He rushes off to Hong Kong to find her, leaving death and destruction in his wake. By the end of the book Bosch discovers that his theory of the case was wrong, that his blundering actions had dire consequences, and that it will be hard to right those wrongs.

Spotlight

Children's book writer Katherine Paterson follows Jon Scieszka as the new National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, a position created by the Library of Congress. The author of The Great Gilly Hopkins, Jacob Have I Loved, and The Bridge to Terebithia will travel the United States promoting children's literacy and the joy of reading. The 77-year-old Paterson grew up on the mission field in China.

Publishers Weekly reports that graphic versions of classic novels are becoming more popular. The original Classics Illustrated books, which have been reissued, were light on text and simply illustrated. The new versions, including an expanded Classics Illustrated Deluxe line, have more text and more artistic illustrations. Puffin Classics and Barnes and Noble both have graphic lines of some of the old favorites, including Treasure Island, Dracula, Tom Sawyer, and The Three Musketeers. Marvel, now owned by Disney, is reaching beyond the typical male reader of graphic novels with graphic versions of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.

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