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Culture Watch

And Consider This:

TRACE
by Patricia Cornwell, ©2004
Published by The Berkeley Group
Paperback, 401 pp

Fans of Patricia Cornwell will love this new Kay Scarpetta adventure, which is replete with the usual gruesome details of doings in the office of the Medical Examiner. If you’re repelled by donated bodies which are preserved by submerging them in underground tanks and then retrieved by hooks inserted into their ears, you’d best stay away.

Cornwell disappointed many of her fans by killing off Scarpetta’s lover a couple of books ago, and then resurrecting him later on (secret mission stuff). Even the disappointed must admit, however, that Cornwell spins a lively yarn, and Trace is well up to her standard as she revisits Scarpetta’s old haunts in Richmond, Va. A recommended read for those familiar with the series, but new readers would do well to start at the beginning of the Scarpetta books.

OVER HER DEAD BODY
by Kate White, © 2005
Published by Warner Books
Hardback, 374 pp

This is the third book in Kate White’s series featuring the adventures (well, perhaps misadventures would be a better term) of Bailey Weggins, a New York freelance crime writer. In Over Her Dead Body, Bailey has just taken a job at a gossip magazine called Buzz, whose editor is a true termagant, hated by all who must work for or with her. Not surprisingly, the editor winds up bludgeoned to death, and it’s up to Bailey to do the reportage on the crime for the next issue of the magazine. In the process, she finds herself in grave danger from a stalker. She also, surprise, solves the crime and meets the man of her dreams.

White is the editor of Cosmopolitan, and her book is written in that magazine’s casual, jazzy and sometimes sloppy style. If you’re the kind of person who notices things like split infinitives, attributive nouns, hyperbole and lots of metro-slang, you might want to avoid this book.

That said, it’s a light, quick read, the kind that’s fun for a long weekend or a couple of days at the beach. The characters are lively and the setting a treat for those of us who don’t live in New York, but enjoy a Big City fix from time to time.

THE SINISTER PIG
by Tony Hillerman, © 2003
Published by HarperCollins
Paperback, 318 pp

Yet another in Hillerman’s long list of mysteries set in the Southwest, The Sinister Pig does not disappoint. This writer, who is not Native American, has delved so deeply into that culture that he is able to produce book after book featuring his now-famous lawmen, Lieutenant (ret.) Joe Leaphorn and Sergeant Jim Chee of the Navaho Tribal Police, without (as far as this reviewer knows) hitting one sour note.

Hillerman’s plots are enticingly intricate, and Native American lore often provides the key to their resolutions. Anyone who has known and loved New Mexico and Arizona will relish the descriptions of the land and its peoples. But while the geologic and anthropological slant is interesting, it is the humanity with which Hillerman invests all his characters that makes for good stories.

If the series is new to you, you’re in for several treats. If not, you’re in for yet another good read.

JS

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