Alexander,B.; The Color of Death
 Allen,S.; Vulgarians At The Gate
 Andrews,R.; Murder of Honor
 Baldacci,D.; Last Man Standing
 Baldacci,D.; Saving Faith

 Baldacci,D.; Wish You Well
 Bisson,T.; The Pickup Artist
 Bourdain,A.; Typhoid Mary
 Breuer,W.B.; Secret Weapons of World War II
 Brock;D,; Havana Heat

 Browne,J.C.; The Sweet Potato Queen's Book of Love
 Buchanan.E.; You Only Die Twice
 Carr,C.; Killing Time
 Clapp;N.; Sheba
 Dickson,G.R.; The Dragon and the Fair Maid of Kent

 Dobson,J.; Cold and Pure and Very Dead
 Dubose,M.H.; Women of Mystery
 Egleton,C.; The Honey Trap
 Evans,C.; Great Feuds in History
 Foster,A.D.; Reunion

 Goudge,E.; Stranger in Paradise
 Grimes,M.; Cold Flat Junction
 Grisham,J.; A Painted House
 Hockenberry,J.; A River out of Eden
 James,P.D.; Death in Holy Orders

 Johnson,W.; Six Crooked Highways
 Krantz,J.A,; Sharp Edges
 Lewis,J(ed); Odd Gods
 Lovesey,P.; The Vault
 Lucaks,D.; Five Days in London

 Lynds,G.; Mesmerized
 Mallinson,A.; Honorable Company
 Malone,M.; Handling Sin
 Maron,M.; Uncommon Clay
 McCarthy,P.; McCarthy's Bar

 Middleton,H.; Grimm's Last Fairytale
 Mitchell,K.; Ancient Ones
 Molotsky,I.; The Flag, the Poet and the Song
 O'Connell,C,; Shell Game
 O'Connell,C.; Judas Child

 Parker,R.B.; Perish Twice
 Parry,O.; Faded Coat of Blue
 Potok,C.; Old Men at Midnight
 Rabb,J.; The Book of Q
 Sandford,J,; The Devil's Code

 Shoemperlen,D.; Our Lady of the Lost and Found.
 Smith,D.; On Bear Mountain
 Tyler,Anne; Back When We Were Grownups
 White,E.B.; The Trumpet of the Swan

  A River out of Eden; John Hockenberry
              I found this to be a stirring, powerful book that I think Bette would classify as 'strange.'  The center of the story is the Columbia River. The tale concerns the dams along the river, and the two cultures associated with them: The builders and maintainers of the dams, those that see the dams as wonderful accomplishments; and the Indians, many of whom see the dams as spoilers of the river, and catastrophic insofar as the salmon population is concerned.  We follow four stories in the book. One is the story of  Francine Smoholla and her family. She is half Chinook Indian, half white, a US. Marine biologist who is working to try to save the endangered salmon. Her father vanished before Francine was born and is presumed dead. Her mother has been in a comatose state ever since. Another story involves a white supremacist, rabid right winger, Roy McCurdy, who makes Rush Limbaugh seem like a boy scout (no gay joke intended) and Roy's son, Duke McCurdy. Roy hates blacks, Jews, Indians, and many others. Duke is tarred with the same brush, but not as rabid. And there is the story of the dam managers, maintainers, and their security  groups, and  finally there is the story of  a very strange scientist who has been working for years at the Hanford, nuclear facility, unappreciated and almost forgotten. The situation begins when Francine's father reappears and starts killing dam personnel because he feels he is a warrior sent to bring back the salmon's river kingdom. The story develops slowly, grippingly, and moves to a truly stunning, apocalyptic conclusion. Hockenberry (a paraplegic) spent some years as an NPR reporter  in the Pacific Northwest, and he has built the story around feelings, sights and stories that he encountered there. The story is at times jerky, and episodic, and it does take a while to get going, but it is a nice piece of work.
 NOTE: If the title sounds familiar, it may be because In 1995 Richard Dawkins wrote a book called River Out of Eden, a Darwinian view of life. His river, however, is one of DNA.
 Hockenberry,J.; A River Out of Eden; $24.95;364pp; Doubleday; NY; 2001; ISBN 0-385-49425-4

The Honey Trap; Clive Egleton        (series)
                Egleton is an ex British Intelligence officer who has been writing a series that stars Peter Ashton, an officer in the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS). In this one, he is a somewhat free floating agent, with somewhat ill defined duties, and he is assigned to investigate the torture-murder of a  Queen's Messenger in Costa Rica. It seems clear that the killers were trying to get something that they thought the Messenger was carrying. As Ashton digs into the background of the dead man, and his associates and relatives, he begins to find bits and pieces that indicate activities of a terrorist group, and others that begin to indicate that there might be some reason to doubt the loyalty of some Intelligence and Foreign Affairs people. As always, Egleton presents, in great detail, various facts and fancies (mostly facts) about British Intelligence, British Foreign Affairs, bureaucratic infighting, ponderous bureaucratic decision making, and just plain confusion - e.g. It is not always clear who is Ashton's boss! Along with all the atmosphere, there is the painstaking, detailed crime solving activity of Ashton. There are several unbelievable, or at least improbable, events including the location of a body thought to be somewhere in London, and the final shoot-out where Ashton single-handedly stops a well planned terrorist strike. Interesting, possibly good for the beach, but skippable - unless you like the arcane world of Intelligence (a term once described as an oxymoron).
 Egleton,C.; The Honey Trap;$24.95;390pp; St. Martin's Press;NY; 2000; ISBN 0-312-26924-2

Cold Flat Junction; Martha Grimes
              This, it seems, is a sequel to Hotel Paradise, which I have not read. It is the  slow moving, first person narrative of  intelligent, curious, 12 year old (NEAR 13)  Emma Graham, who lives in the Paradise Hotel, situated near the shores of Spirit Lake, a former resort area. The run down hotel is owned by  Aurora Paradise ( a recluse in the hotel), and operated by Emma's mother and her business partner. Emma is a clever amateur sleuth, trying to unravel the drowning death, 40 years ago, of another 12 year old girl. In the meantime there is the killing of  Fern Queen, daughter of Benjamin Queen, who has just been released from prison where he was sent for the murder of his wife. The police think Ben murdered his daughter, Emma doesn't. She has met fugitive Ben and believes him innocent, and she doesn't tell that to her friend, the Sheriff. The story, which has almost no  plot, is an account of Emma's adventures in the hotel and outside of it, as she keeps working intensely on the old killing, and trying to find out about Ben Queens wife's murder, and that of  Fern Queen. She has a dysfunctional family,  there is a host of very quirky characters that she encounters, and she finds herself continually having to misdirect people and lie to many. She spends a lot of her time seriously hating 16 year old Regina Jane (Ree-Jane) Davidow, daughter of her mother's business partner (there is one somewhat redeeming vignette), a fair amount of time making mealtimes miserable for an old, cranky resident of the hotel, and time mixing exotic booze drinks for old Mrs. Paradise. She also seems to have access to a lot of cash, which she uses generously (for a 12 year old). Emma writes far too well for a 12 year old, and often knows more than it seems likely she should, and my impression is that while I found most of her story quite interesting reading (skipping over fantasies germane to Emma but irrelevant to the story of her actions) I ended up not too fond of her. I sympathized with her, and empathized a lot, but in the long run I  think I was somewhat turned off - but then I was never a 12 year old girl.  I may try the first novel, and if you want to get into Emma's world I  suggest that you try that one before this one. This one leaves a number of loose ends (as, I suspect, did the first) and I'll bet we will hear from Emma again.
 Grimes, M.; Cold Flat Junction;$24.95;390pp;Viking Penguin;NY; 2001; ISBN 0-670-89491-5

Typhoid Mary:An Urban Historical; Anthony Bourdain        (nf)
             Bourdain is a chef, and has written several books about chefing(?), with a certain macho style, outrageous opinions, and a somewhat sardonic view of the complicated world of the cook. This is a book about the real person, Mary Mallon, the Irish cook who was a carrier of typhoid germs in the earlier part of this century, and who was dubbed 'Typhoid Mary.' Bourdain, a cook, empathetically  describes a fellow cook, Mary, and the world that she lived in - and cooked in. She was the cook in a series of private homes, and the owners and their servants came down with typhoid. She was tracked down, and her life after her discovery is related sympathetically . There is added detail about cooking, about the nature of the 'new' woman in this time period, about the nature of cooks and chefs, and the total is a very readable, and interesting small book. Mary was confined for the last part of her life in order to stop her from spreading germs, and Bourdain also deals with that distressing phase of her life. The reader will note that Bourdain has little good to say about the man who initially discovered Mary's responsibility for germ spreading, and who chased her, and capitalized on the chase for the rest of his life.
 Bourdain,A.; Typhoid Mary; $19.95; 148pp; Bloomsbury Publishing; NY; 2001; ISBN 1-58234-133-8

McCarthy's Bar: A Journey of Discovery in the West of Ireland; Pete McCarthy        (nf)
               McCarthy is someone who has traveled extensively for British radio and TV, and he writes here of his confused identity -
half English, and half Irish,  as well as of his wonderful adventures in Ireland as he goes from pub to pub, rock cairn to rock cairn, and  B&B to B&B - from Cork to Donegal, always on the lookout for inexpensive Chinese noodles! He gives  lyrical descriptions of the scenery and places, and almost hysterically funny accounts of the natives and visitors to Ireland. There are some very intriguing serious aspects to the book - they sneak up on the reader. They deal with the changing values in the land, the differences across the land, religion, and McCarthy's great uncertainty about his identity. I found the book delightful, although the last two thirds seems better than the beginning. It is a wild, rambunctious adventure that will delight many readers - it is said to be a bestseller in Ireland.
 McCarthy,P.; McCarthy's Bar;$24.95;338pp; St. Martin's Press; NY; 2001; ISBN 0-312-27210-3

The Dragon and the Fair Maid of Kent; Gordon R. Dickson      (sf)
              Here only for followers of the series, and because I really like Dickson! It is the latest in his alternate timeline series that put mathematician Jim Eckert  in the 14th century English Middle Ages, where there is real Magic, and Jim can use it - and also change into a large dragon! As those familiar with English history will know,  the Fair Maid of Kent, Joan, is the daughter of  Edmund Plantagenet. She ultimately married Edward, the Black Prince, heir to the throne. The book treats of a period before that wedding, when the Bubonic Plague was rampant. Magicians, trolls, dragons, goblins etc. romp through this alternate history in a manner that SF lovers will delight in.
 Dickson,G.R.; The Dragon and the Fair Maid of Kent ;$26.95; 399pp; Tom Doherty Ass.; NY; 2000; ISBN 0-312-86150-5

Wish You Well; David Baldacci
         If you expect to find here another of Baldacci's typical good tales of suspense, you will be surprised - but not disappointed. This is the heart warming, heart wrenching, charming, distressing, and ultimately triumphant  story of Lou (Louisa) Cardinal, a precocious 12 year old New Yorker, Oz (Oscar), her brother, Amanda, her mother, and Louisa, her grandmother who lives on a mountain in Appalachia, in Virginia. The time is 1940. Lou's father is killed in a car crash, and her mother becomes catatonic. There is no money, so her father's friends take up a collection and send Lou, her brother, and their mother to Appalachia to live with grandmother Louisa. As the story unfolds, the two children learn about their new foreign world of hard scrabble farming, country school, country folk and customs, and the pace of the Appalachian rural world, which is wonderfully described. They work hard, make some friends, and they and their grandmother gradually learn about each other. Lou is a stubborn, feisty, competitive girl, fiercely devoted to her young brother, who believes that their mother will some day recognize them. Lou does not. An old friend of their father, attorney Cotton Longfellow, comes daily to read to their unresponsive mother, and help Louisa and Eugene, her handyman. The adventures of the children are in the foreground, while in the background there develops an effort by ruthless corporate interests to acquire Louisa's property. It is a beautiful told story about varying aspects of love, loyalty, honor, compassion, and the maturation of two remarkable children. The story culminates in a tense courtroom struggle that will have the reader turning the pages at an increasing rate. I found it an enthralling read.
 NOTE: In a forward that no reader should skip, Baldacci notes that his grandmother lived on a mountain in Appalachia all her life, and his mother lived there till she was seventeen. He interviewed his mother extensively for this book, and observes something that I discovered a long time ago - how little most of us know about our parents! So, speaking as an old man: Reader, "interview" your parents, and write or tell your own reminiscences to your children. Start NOW.
 Baldacci,D.; Wish You Well;$24.95:401pp; Warner Books; NY; 2000; ISBN 0-446-52716-5

Five Days in London: May 1940; John Lukacs               (nf)
           The days are May 24 through May 28, 1940. Lukacs feels that it was during those days that Winston Churchill prevented Britain from losing WWII and essentially shaped the last half of the twentieth century. Churchill was newly Prime Minister, France and England were losing the land war in Europe, and their troops had been driven to the coast - especially to Dunkirk, where there was a poorly planned evacuation to take place. There was intense debate in the War Cabinet as to whether or not Britain should negotiate with Hitler. Halifax, the Secretary of State, thought Britain should. Churchill did not. Chamberlain was unsure. Churchill struggled to have his point of view prevail. Lukacs, a prodigious writer of history, mostly centering on the era of WWII, takes the reader through a detailed, footnoted recounting of the times, the opinions and the feelings of the various classes,  the diplomatic players: their backgrounds, prejudices and patriotism, and the attitudes of the major governments in the European world. He sketches out the events that led to the crucial five days, and the military disasters that were developing rapidly. It is a dense, spellbinding book that cannot be skimmed through. The author ( a professional historian) writes very well, although with a few habits that I found a tad irritating. He is well opinionated (with good referential backing, however) and he is happy to point out where he sees other historians as wrong! Those were times that I was fortunate enough to have lived through, and I found the book compelling - and convincing. First class piece of work. My Cosmos Club friends who suggested this were right about it!
 Lukacs,J; Five Days in London;$-;236pp; Yale University Press; New Haven;1999;ISBN 0-300-08030-1

Ancient Ones; Kirk Mitchell           (series)
          This is a suspense, police-procedural story, that takes place in Oregon, and stars Mitchell's two law-enforcement protagonists: Emmett Parker, of white-Comanche ancestry, and Anna Turnipseed, a reservation-born Modoc who is part Japanese. Parker works as a criminal investigator for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and Turnipseed is an FBI agent. I have not read either of the two preceding novels in this series, so I was quite taken aback when the book started with a psychotherapy session involving Emmett, Anna, and their psychiatrist! NOT your usual beginning of a cop story. Anna and Emmett are in love, but not lovers, because Anna was sexually abused as a child and is emotionally unable to engage in sex. That sub-story runs through the book, but the main tale is of the events that develop after a bone hunter finds a skeleton, which a local forensic anthropologist declares to be Caucasoid, and of an age to predate the Indians who claim the land as that of their ancestors. A controversy, that threatens to escalate into violence, develops between the local Indians who declare the bones are those of an ancestor, and those who insist that the bones are no such thing. A complicated story gradually develops, and increases in mystery, suspense and violence. A young Indian anthropologist vanishes, the fossil hunter is found disemboweled, a cult group of  Nordic pagans gets involved, and the forensic anthropologist is increasingly involved in the strange goings on - happenings that the local Indians feel are precipitated by a malevolent Spirit of the Ancient Ones, returned to this earth by the discovery and mishandling of the bones. A dandy story of the type, a real page turner with a startling climax. And with an unusual pair of non-lovers!
 Mitchell.K.; Ancient Ones;$23.95;326pp;Bantam Books;NY;2001;ISBN 0-553-10914-6

Uncommon Clay; Margaret Maron       (series)
              This is the latest in the mystery series starring Deborah Knott, a judge in North Carolina. The last book in the series that I read was Killer Market, and I was disappointed - the author was busy telling the reader all the arcane details of the North Carolina furniture business! I have not read  two subsequent novels; this one follows. This time Maron has discovered the North Carolina pottery craft and business! And like Killer Market, she waxes lyrical about materials, skills, locations, sales, people and more than you ever cared to know about pottery. The story revolves around one family of potters, headed by an unpleasant old man, who has lost two of his sons - sons that would have continued the line. Knott gets involved when she has to determine the split in assets between the old man's remaining son and daughter in law. A new member of the family - an out of wedlock grandson of the old man - shows up part way through the recounting of the family problems. The story alternates between first person and third person - a somewhat jerky format. Once most of the enthusiastic telling of pottery details is over, the story becomes more interesting, and has a surprising ending. Not up to the standards of the first few books in the series, however. Sigh...
 Maron,M.; Uncommon Clay;$23.95;288pp;Warner Books; NY; 2001; ISBN0-89296-720-X

Faded Coat of Blue; Owen Parry
            This strikes me as a beautifully told, very different, Civil War novel. It is, of all things, a mystery. It is also the first person story of Welshman Abel Jones, a veteran of Britain's battles in India (including the Sepoy Mutiny), an immigrant to the USA, and a volunteer in the Union Army. When we meet him he is working in Washington in the Quartermaster Corps, having been wounded at Bull Run - a leg injury that has left him with a barely functioning leg. He is summoned by Gen. George McClellan,  who directs him to investigate the strange death of Capt. Anthony Fowler, a golden boy, beloved by everyone it seems, and a crusader. He was an Abolitionist, then a soldier, and a vehement spokesman about the corruption that he saw rampant in the supplying of war goods. The story is about Jones's investigation, and about Jones himself. It becomes clear the death was a murder, and the story gets more and more complex, and surprising, as Jones digs into the murder. Elegantly entwined with the mystery is the story of Jones and his wife, as well as vivid pictures of  ordinary people and the world of Washington during the Civil War. The story is a stunning portrayal of a side of the Civil War that is seldom seen, and a striking view of some of the leaders, the people and the times - and the prejudices. And, at the end, he meets Abraham Lincoln! It is a captivating story, and Jones is a very worthy hero. I gather that this is to be the first in a series about the adventures of Abel Jones. I look forward to the next one.
 NOTE: In the interests of full disclosure, I should note that Jones is a resident of Pottsville, Pa., where I was born, and a place only five miles from the mining town in which I grew up. (Jones visits Pottsville in the story). In addition, my wife's maiden name was Jones (a Welsh family). These facts have nothing whatsoever to do with my warm feeling toward the story.
 Parry,O.; $23; 338pp; Avon Books; NY; 1999; ISBN 0-380-97642-1

The Vault; Peter Lovesey       (series)
             This is the fifth in Lovesey's good stories involving  Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond, currently in Bath, England. It is a police procedural that starts with the discovery of a skeletal hand, embedded in a thin case of concrete, in a vault underneath the Roman Baths. Diamond begins an investigation. Meanwhile, Professor  Joe Dugan is visiting Bath with his wife, and attempting to find the house that was occupied by Mary Shelley while she wrote Frankenstein.  As it happens, the house is no longer there, but the vault is under the space where the house used to be. He is also in possession of a book that he is convinced belonged to Mary Shelley when she lived in Bath, and the book has in it the sticker of a book dealer in Bath; he sets out to trace the previous owners of the book. He traces it back to an antique dealer, and finds the dealer has a small writing chest - locked - that she got at the same time as the book. He is convinced the chest once belonged to Mary Shelley. As Diamond uncovers the identity of the victim whose hand was in the vault, the antique dealer turns up murdered, and the writing chest vanishes, as does Joe's wife.  There are a number of other related stories in the tale, and they all mesh gradually in Lovesey's skillful way, and the reader is brought smoothly to the surprising ending. Interesting characters, interesting problems, and interesting ratiocination. Dandy story.
 Lovesey,P.; The Vault; $23; 331pp; Soho Press; NY;1999; ISBN 1-56947-208-4

Judas Child; Carol O'Connell
            Several years ago I was astounded by the hard, brilliant, and utterly engrossing story Mallory's Oracle by O'Connell - her first novel,  starring policewoman Kathy Mallory; a novel that was the first of a good series ( although I do not care for the latest in the series). I missed this 1998 book, which is not part of the Mallory series. Again I was overwhelmed by one of O'Connell's  books -  one that may, however,  turn off some readers - it is a distressing subject. It's a story that starts with the disappearance of two young girls from an academy in Maker's Village in New York state. Young Rouge Kendall, one of the six policemen in the small, very upscale village, is involved in the case early on, and it is very difficult for him in that his twin sister had vanished, and was found raped and murdered 15 years earlier. The case is taken on by the State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation, with cooperation by the FBI - and of course the local police and Rouge are involved.  As the story unfolds we meet Rouge's mother, a recovered alcoholic and journalist; assorted law enforcement officers, especially one from the FBI; Ali Cray, a striking woman with a badly scarred face and a Ph.D. in forensic psychology,  who is  a former elementary schoolmate of Rouge's; a psychiatrist who is Cray's uncle; two of the village's physicians; the parents of the missing children; a convict priest; a retired cop who is a crook; and even the children themselves. In fact, the story alternates between the increasingly frantic efforts to find the children, and the two children. In the latter side of the story we meet first Gwen, who had been called  by her friend Sadie to meet outside the Academy, and was taken prisoner. After some travails, she encounters Sadie, and, with Sadie,  tries to escape from the man whom Gwenn thinks of as "the Fly." Ali Cray has made a detailed study of multiple cases in the state where two girls have vanished simultaneously. She is convinced that in those cases one girl was captured by a sadistic,  psychopathic pedophile, and was forced to summon the other girl, who was the real subject of interest. The first girl was only a "Judas child"- of no interest to the killer except as a lure for her friend. She also believes that Rouge's sister was killed by the same serial killer 15 years earlier, and not by the priest who was convicted of the murder. She gradually comes to believe that her uncle may know who the killer is. Rouge, gifted with remarkable deductive and intuitive abilities, follows a separate investigative course to essentially the same conclusions, and identifies the killer. If you have a tendency to bite your nails DO NOT read this book, you'll lose them all. It is one of gradually building, agonizing suspense that this reader found sometimes anguishing to read, and that left him wrung out. The characters are certainly different, yet surprisingly believable, and the story is complicated, sometimes dark, sometimes unreal, and sometimes startling.  The story telling is superb. Quite an emotional experience; and the surprising final pages left me with a lump in my throat.
 O.Connell,C.; Judas Child; $24.95;340pp;G.P. Putnam's Sons; NY; 1998; ISBN 0-399-14380-7

Shell Game; Carol O'Connell      (series)
             Hard to believe - a 'Mallory' story that I find vastly disappointing, and wouldn't recommend! It is the latest in the series, which was interrupted by the novel Judas Child, (see above). Mallory is, of course, O'Connell's unique, interesting, not really likable character, who was a feral child of the street when she was taken in by a police lieutenant and his wife. She became a police officer, and the series follows her adventures. This one centers around the world of magicians and illusions.  As the story opens, the retired illusionist, Malakhai (who lives with the ghost of his dead wife), watches an old acquaintance, Oliver Tree, die (on screen) while attempting to reproduce the Lost Illusion in which the magician is chained down and the target for four mechanized crossbows. Malakhai knows it is not a mistake - it is actually murder. Mallory decides the same thing - despite the disagreement of everyone else - and she  keeps on the case. It takes her into a group of magicians who have known each other since they were active in the French Resistance during WWII. It was a period when Malakhai's wife was killed, assumed  an accident, but actually a murder as Mallory determines. Mallory spends a LOT of time with the magicians, and a LOT of time with illusion-making equipment. Charles Butler and Detective Sergeant Riker again appear frequently. Charles of course has a background associated with magic and illusions.  I can't outline the story, it has far too many players and situations to permit that. Finally, Mallory identifies the villain, and since she can't prove his guilt, she settles for gradually ruining him and driving him to suicide! On the way there are many twists and turns, and side stories. I said above that Mallory was not really likable - that doesn't mean the reader dislikes her, up till this one. I found myself suddenly not liking Mallory, who really demonstrates in this book that she is truly a sociopath. I think O'Connell should have quit the series with the Stone Angel. This book has no awareness of the that wonderful one.
 O'Connell,C.; Shell Game;$24.95;374pp;G.P. Putnam's Sons; NY; 1999; ISBN 0-399-14495-1

Havana Heat; Darryl Brock
          This is a baseball story that I liked. There was much I didn't get, but I enjoyed it. To appreciate that this is a startling confession, you must understand that I do not care for baseball - at all. I don't dislike it, I am just totally uninterested in it, a fact which an old friend continues to disbelieve. It is, I think, partly a case of negative conditioning - my father took me to games when I was a child, and they were long, hot, and BORING. In addition, there was no sand lot ball in Minersville, and the game was almost overlooked in the high school array of sports ( no pictures in the yearbook, no publicity about games, etc.). However, a friend on a local Internet book forum is a baseball enthusiast, and when I picked up this book, saw it was a 'baseball novel,' and started to put it down, I thought of her enthusiasm - and picked it up again. Perhaps I could find out what was so interesting about baseball. I don't think I did, although the reader is totally immersed in the world of 1911 Baseball. The book is mostly a first person account by 36 year old Luther Taylor (Dummy), a deaf-mute who was a major league hurler [how about that knowledgeable terminology!]  who played for the Giants, under McGraw, until his arm gave out. He then became a minor league player. There are italicized, third person, reminiscent bits that take place in 1958, when Dummy is in his eighties. The active story begins when Taylor realizes that his ailing arm has healed, starts practicing, and goes to see McGraw to see if he can get back on the team. His long-suffering wife does not think it's a great idea. The Giants are going to Cuba to play for a month in the winter, and Taylor talks McGraw into letting him come along (Taylor pays) to possibly pitch for the team. In Cuba, he meets with old colleagues, and does get to pitch. In the midst of the scheduled games [and halfway through the book] a group of poor Cuban boys is brought to the field by their priest, and Dummy meets Luis, one of the older boys, whom the priest says is a very good pitcher. The priest also persuades McGraw to send Taylor to the home for boys to watch and help Luis - with the intent of having McGraw sign Luis if he is really good. Taylor finds that Luis is a truly superb pitcher, and gradually realizes that Luis appears to him as the son he never had. A crucial baseball game will settle whether Luis is to be signed or not. The characters are eminently believable, the emotions are strong and understandable, the story is strong, touching, and poignant in many ways, and the last game ending is almost O'Henry. I found you don't have to be a baseball fan to appreciate the feelings and emotions of the players; the game is the background for these universal things. So one can fail  to appreciate many of the fine points, and still find a good story. I did.
Brock, D; Havana Heat;$24.95;304pp;Total/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED;Kingston, N.Y.; ISBN 1-892129-23-X

Secret Weapons of World War II; William B. Breuer      (nf)
          Breuer is described as "...a critically acclaimed author of ... military history books." He has written about 30 books, all about WWII it looks like, and I seem to have read none of them! This one is a ragtag book of relatively short essays on a variety of technology-related activities in WWII, most of them classified at the time.  There are five chronologically arranged sections, each of which contains about 15 articles that fit into the stated time period (mostly). There are many articles on cracking codes, radar and radar counter measures, nuclear weapons, spying, etc. There is no particular connection between adjacent articles, and the discontinuity makes for very jerky reading. Many (not all) of the articles are interesting, and the general thrust of the stories (those I read) seems correct, but the reader is advised to be a little wary. The most glaring error is his story  that Churchill knew that Coventry was to be a target for German bombing, and let it happen in order not to reveal that the British could read German ENIGMA  traffic. The story is simply not true, and has been thoroughly discredited. He seems totally unaware of work beyond the source of the original story, and a series of tabloid stories based on that source. There are other, smaller discrepancies scattered about. I did not read all the articles, only about half of them, but I feel that interested parties might well look elsewhere for historical information on the subjects. There is a notes and sources section, and a satisfactory index. However, too many of the sources are listed as "Author's Archives."
Breuer,W.B.; Secret Weapons of World War II;$24.95;242pp; John Wiley & Sons; NY; 2000; ISBN 0-4717287-0

The Color of Death; Bruce Alexander        (series)
            The latest in Alexander's series starring blind Sir John Fielding, the magistrate of Bow Street in London in the 18th century, and his ward and assistant, Jeremy Proctor. In this one, a daring band of robbers invade the mansions of the upper class, and hold the inhabitants at gun point while stealing very valuable items. In one invasion, a servant is killed cold-bloodedly. The one outstanding surprise is that the robbers are all black men. Early on, Sir John is shot in the shoulder, and it falls to Jeremy to be very active in the investigation. As usual, the tale is wonderfully told, the characters are interesting - especially those of Sir John's unusual household, but by no means limited to them; and the locale and times of  1772 London come across beautifully - although sanitized. The plot is an increasingly complex one, and as it unfolds there are very perceptive views of blacks in London in those days, as well as the complexities of slavery and freedom, and the sometimes ironic juxtaposition of the two. First class entry in the series, and can be read without knowledge of the others. The fascinating backgrounds of some of the regulars will be lost to a new reader, but that will not affect the tale.
Alexander,B.; The Color of Death;$24.95;279pp;G.P. Putnam's Sons;NY; ISBN 0-399-14648-2

Killing Time; Caleb Carr     (SF)
           A while back Carr wrote a book that fascinated me: The Alienist. It was laid in the past. This one is laid in the future, and Bette would call it 'strange.' And in fact, it is! The book is a first person narration, by Dr. Gideon Wolfe, an historian, a psychiatrist, and a famous criminal profiler. The time is 2023. Carr presents a dark view of a world  with areas of great wealth, resulting from a remarkable cache of information technology, and extreme poverty elsewhere. There are bitter battles and wars over resources, there is a tremendous black market in technology, including nuclear weapons. There was a tremendous staph plague 17 years earlier, followed by an economic collapse.  And everywhere there is the advanced version of what we know as the Internet. The author dumps us into this world - which we abruptly realize is a simple extension of our world! The concern in the book is the ease with which the public can be deceived and manipulated, and a strange ethical dilemma dealing with deception used to reveal the terrible effects of deception! The story starts when Wolfe is presented with evidence that indicates that the famous visual record of the assassination of the U.S. President was, in fact, digitally altered, and the wrong person was accused. He gets a friend, a famous information specialist and detective, to help him unravel the case.  His friend is murdered. While trying to investigate the hoax and the murder, he encounters, and joins, a group of military and scientific experts, headed by  a brother and sister who were genetically altered as children to possess almost unbelievable intellectual genius. The group dwells in a remarkable vehicle that can ascend to the top of the stratosphere, or descend to the depths of the ocean, or simply fly through the air. The group is dedicated to uncovering how easily the public can be hoaxed - and falls into a trap where they use the methods they are trying to discredit. It is an interesting, if scary, world of the future. The characterization doesn't quite work, but it is a thought provoking story about an unlikely situation. I enjoyed it - but not as much as The Alienist.
Carr,C.; Killing Time; $25.95;274pp;Random House;NY; 2000; ISBN 0-679-46331-1

You Only Die Twice; Edna Buchanan             (series)
           The latest in the series starring Buchanan's alter ego: Britt Montero. Montero is a crime reporter in Miami - where Buchanan spent twenty years as a Pulitzer prize winning crime reporter. The stories are well told, often unusual, and authentic - as well as good mysteries. The story starts with the discovery of a woman's body on a Miami beach. She had drowned. The real mystery starts when the body is identified as that of a woman who had been murdered ten years before, whose husband  was convicted of the murder and is a couple weeks away from execution! Montero sets out to find out how this came about. Where was the woman all these years? Why had she returned to Miami? How did she come to drown? The story develops into an interesting quest, with surprising turns and an unexpected ending! Bet you'll be surprised.
 Buchanan,E.; You Only Die Twice;$24;290pp;Harper Collins;NY; 2001; ISBN 0-380-97655-2

Death in Holy Orders; P.D. James     Series)
             Phyllis Dorothy James, Baroness of Holland Park, has here written her latest murder mystery/police procedural starring poet and detective Adam Dalgliesh. Perhaps it is that I have not read any of the series lately, but this strikes me as one of the best. Again the locale is away from London, on the coast - this time in East Anglia. A far cry from the London CID, which is Dalgliesh's preserve. The scene of the crime is the small, privately founded, Church of England religious college: St. Anselms, where Dalgliesh had once stayed for several pleasant summers. One of the young ordinands is found dead, killed in the collapse of a ridge on the beach; the legal finding is 'accidental.' The young man's father has much political clout in London, and he gets the CID to send Adam to St. Anselms to quietly verify all the details. Before he gets there, an elderly housekeeper seems to die in her sleep (the reader knows she was murdered), and leaves a journal that she has been writing. The journal indicates that she has just remembered a long ago secret. Thus begins another of the meticulously plotted, beautifully organized, intricate detective stories that are James's hallmark. While Dalgliesh is at the college, there is the brutal murder of  an archdeacon who has been pushing for the closing of the college. It is clear that the college will ultimately have to close - and it  also seems clear from the will of the private founder, that four priests will become wealthy when that happens. A complete crime scene team from London helps work the problem, and there is another murder. As always, the reader is gradually drawn in to an engrossing story, with interesting - and different - characters, and puzzled by the complex mystery till very near the end. The story ends not only with the solution of the happenings, but with a promising personal development for Dalgliesh! Great yarn.
 James, P.D.; Death in Holy Orders;$25; 415pp;Knopf; NY; 20001; ISBN 0-375-41255-7

Women of Mystery:The Lives And Works of Notable Women Crime Novelists; Martha Hailey Dubose with additional essays by Margaret Caldwell Thomas             (nf)
           I found this to be an interesting, informative, at times fascinating book that also succeeded in irritating me (perhaps my level of irritation is low!) Within limits, it is as the subtitle says. It is a collection of brief biographies of women writers of mystery or detective stories, with added bibliographies of their published works plus TV productions and movies. Many of them are entertaining and surprising, some of them were not what I would have picked. I read about such greats as Rinehart, Christie, Sayers, Tey, Marsh etc. with keen interest. The contemporary authors left me irritated. Actually, my first irritation concerned the auxiliary author, Margaret Thomas. Her name is listed on the title page, and following five of the eighteen essays listed in the contents, and there is NO information about her.  My second irritation was in the choice of who should be included as contemporary authors, and who should be omitted. In particular let me note that Thomas's essays include authors Sue Grafton, Patricia Cornwell, and Lilian Jackson Braun. The latter I found mind boggling - the stories are simple minded formulaic yarns that star two cats! Grafton's stories are much better, but are not in the top ranks, Cornwell's early stories about her coronor's office star are first class, then she invoked a shadowy villain who causes all the trouble, and I finally quit reading them. And Dubose's book is totally unaware of Faye Kellerman! In addition, the index is abysmal. It looks authoritative, but is exasperatingly spotty about important things (by my definition, of course) and chock full of useless or irrelevant references. So there! I believe the reader will, as did I, like much of this book, perhaps even all of it if she is not as picky (or opinionated) as I. And I did learn things; how do you think I knew the names and title of P.D. James in the novel above?
 Dubose,M.H.; Women of Mystery; $26.95; Thomas Dunne Books; NY; 2000; ISBN 0-312-20942-8

The Trumpet of the Swan; E.B. White
              It is hard to believe that it was thirty one years ago the late E.B. (Elwyn Brooks) White Introduced us to Louis, a Trumpeter Swan cygnet who is trumpeting impaired - i.e. he was born mute. As a tiny bird he encounters Sam Beaver, a boy who loves animals, and as he grows, and realizes his trumpeting problem, he seeks out Sam hoping that Sam will take him to school so that he can learn to communicate by writing. Sam does, and Louis learns to write, and gets a small slate that he carries around his neck. He writes on it with chalk held in his beak. Unfortunately, when he returns to his family he discovers that of course the swans can't read English!  His father decides that a Trumpeter Swan HAS to be able to trumpet (he'll never get a wife otherwise) so he smashes into a music store window and steals a trumpet for Louis. And indeed Louis learns to blow the trumpet, and then play it. The rest of the book is about the delightful adventures of Louis as he gets better and better at trumpeting, and sets out to earn money so that the music store owner can be reimbursed for the losses incurred when Louis's father swiped the instrument. It is vintage E.B. White. The characters are remarkably believable - you need only (easily) accept that swans are intelligent, sentient, communicating creatures who think like humans ; e.g. Charlotte, in Charlotte's Web - and the tongue-in-cheek, amusing, touching story will enchant you. I had almost forgot the remarkable storytelling of White. This new, hard cover, first edition is beautifully illustrated by Fred Marcellino; it is a sheer delight. I bought it for our nine year old granddaughter, and for a very brief moment I was tempted to keep it! (The swan's name had nothing to do with it)   White,E.B.; The Trumpet of the Swan;$16.95;252pp; Harper Collins; NY; 2000; ISBN 0-06-028935-X

Sheba: Through the Desert in Search of the Legendary Queen; Nicholas Clapp
         As a child, I read into many of my father's books. My favorites were four lavishly illustrated volumes entitled Wonders of the Ancient World. They instilled in me a fascination for archaeology that remains to this day. This book by Clapp is part library research (another of my loves), part travel, and part archaeology - how could I not like it? It recounts an (obsessive?) 10 year Quest devoted to examining all the available legends about, and the evidence for the Queen of Sheba - she whom the Old Testament tells us visited Solomon. Clapp is a good one for the job - he is a noted maker of documentary films, an archaeologist, and a good writer and story teller. I was mesmerized by the book, which provides a fantastic amount of sometimes surprising material about the Queen - all of it legendary, and that seems to includes the Bible references, and a great deal of information about her possible people, the Sabeans; Saba and Sheba being synonymous The gigantic hurdle is that there is probably no archaeological evidence for the reign of Solomon, and somewhat scant evidence - although more is accumulating - for the Sabeans, and no evidence at all for the Queen of Sheba - even in the proposed list of Sabean rulers during the purported Solomon era. Woven through the author's findings are hair raising accounts of his adventures in Yeman and other parts of the Arabian Peninsula, as well as travels in Ethiopia - which claims to have been the home of the Queen of Sheba, and whose legendary first ruler, Menelik, is believed (by the Ethiopians) to have been the Queen's son by Solomon. I found it a truly absorbing account, and very surprising at times. There is a first class set of notes (with one exception), an exhaustive bibliography, and a good index. The exception mentioned comes when the author recounts a truly remarkable experience of hearing a most unlikely story over a campfire in Yeman, a story that he notes had its source in a European, second-century writing which he quotes by name, but to which he never gives a reference! And I had forgot that the New Testament specially notes that the 'Queen of the South' (synonym for the Queen of Sheba) will in fact appear on Judgment Day.
  Clapp;N.; Sheba;$26;372pp;Houghton Mifflin;NY;2001; ISBN0-395-95283-2

Murder of Honor; Robert Andrews
              This is the most attention holding police procedural that I have read in a very long time. I was greatly irritated at anything that required me to stop reading! The place is Washington, D.C., the police are members of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (there are MANY police organizations in DC). We meet Homicide detectives Jos'  Phelps, and Frank Kearney, partners for 25 years; they have seen it all and done it all. This time they have a motiveless drive-by shooting dumped on them: a prominent, activist, Catholic priest is gunned down. The assignment is essentially a subtle punishment for being too much in the media, and doing a little too much ignoring of standard procedures. But as the two painstakingly work the case, it begins to mushroom. They find a half million dollars hidden in the priest's closet. The shooter's car is found in a trash compactor, with two dead men in it - one of them shot by the same weapon that killed the priest. Gradually the case reveals corrupt politicians, unethical media activity, a war over drugs, and more - all muddied up by police bureaucracy and Washington politics. Slam bang good yarn, with convincing portraits of the two cops, and the way that they work. And remember the title as you read. If you know Washington, there are added fillips, but the story is great regardless. I am not sure why this one struck me so much. It has all the standard elements of such a story, yet seemed to me to well above the standard. I believe it is the characterization of the two protagonists, and their dedication to justice. Don't know.
 Andrews,R.; A Murder of Honor;$23.95;284pp;G.P.Putnam's Sons;NY;2001; ISBN 0-399-14684-9

The Pickup Artist; Terry Bisson           (fantasy)
            A remarkable book. It kept me reading in utter fascination - some of it morbid! The place is the USA sometime in the twenty first century. The tale is narrated by Hank Shapiro, a government employee, a Deletion Officer; known colloquially as a 'pickup artist.' He works for the Bureau of Arts and Information, and his job is to pick up all hard copies of  artistic works that the government has labeled as 'deleted'. Old art, literature, movies, music, etc. are deleted from the records, and all copies of the deleted material are to be destroyed. Pickup artists track down and pick up items that have been missed, and not destroyed. The aim is to make room for new talent! Hank picks up a copy of a record (LP) by country singer Hank Williams, and suddenly wants to hear it - strictly illegal! He needs an old record player, which can only be obtained through bootleg places. We follow Hank's story as he and his very ill dog Homer (female) get further and further on the wrong side of the law, meet Henry (Henrietta) a librarian, and take off across the country each with individual agenda: Hank to find the record - from which he has been separated, Henry to find Panama, a social outlaw who impregnated her nine years earlier. She is still carrying the child, the pregnancy having been put on hold as long as Henry takes HalfLife pills! They end up with a 'borrowed' car, and the body of Bob, who owned the car - all on the road that takes them ultimately to Vegas, an area that has seceded from the US. On the way they encounter many bootleg operations, and 'flee' markets - just what you would suspect when a nation wide 'prohibition' appears. Alternating with the story are chapters in italics; they narrate an absolutely spellbinding, eerie, persuasive account  of the development of the policy of deleting works of art! Echoes of Ray Bradbury abound. The italicized chapters narrate a completely coherent, totally believable history of exactly how such an unbelievable state of affairs could happen, including all the problems that had to be resolved. It is spooky.  The satire is sardonic, with dead pan humor - the reader laughs, but uneasily! Another fantasy that portrays a not-impossible, and very distressing future. Bisson (whom I have not read before) is a dazzling master of the genre.
Bisson,T.;The Pickup Artist;$22.95;240pp;TomDoughertyAssociates;NY;2001;ISBN0-312-87403-0

The Flag, the Poet and the Song: The Story of the Star-Spangled Banner;Irvin Molotsky (nf)
            This small book is, as the title says, the delightful, informative and sometimes surprising story of the flag that flew over Ft. McHenry, in Baltimore, during the British attack in the war of 1812; the story of Francis Scott Key, who wrote a poem about the flag; and the story of the song that came from that poem: The Star Spangled Banner.  You probably think that you know the story, but I'll bet you don't! The author also discusses details of the war of 1812, how the National Anthem was arrived at, the trivialization of the Anthem in modern times, preserving the original flag, judicial opinion on flag burning and whether we will someday have a different National Anthem. The section about legal opinions associated with flag burning seems to me to be too long, but the book is a delight. The writing is expert, and replete with wry comments about most subjects! It has an interesting Appendix, a Bibliography, and a good Index. Not to be missed. I did find myself with a great bewilderment when the author explained that the tune for the song came from an old English drinking song, one sung in pubs. At the same time he notes what many of us know: the song is almost impossible for the average voice to sing! How on earth could it have been the tune for a popular song? The point is never discussed. Perhaps I'll write a letter.......
 Modolsky,I.; The Flag, the Poet and the Song;$22.95;240pp;Dutton;NY;2001; ISBN 0-526-94600-4

Honorable Company: A Novel of India Before the Raj; Allan Mallinson            (series)
             Mallinson is a serving cavalry officer in the British Army, and seems to be writing a series about the British cavalry in the early 1800s. It stars young Matthew Hervey. The first volume, A Close Thing Run, saw Hervey behaving smartly and bravely at the Battle of Waterloo. In this book, he becomes aide-de-camp to the Duke of Wellington, and the Duke ships him off to India, ostensibly to study the Indian use of lances by cavalry, but actually to settle a problem with some property the duke owns there. He has to postpone his wedding - but off he goes, along with his favorite horse and his groom. The book narrates the adventures of Hervey before and after he gets to the small state of Chintal. He gets mixed up in the warring of various potentates, and in the expansion efforts of the East India Company. He ends up helping the Rajah in military operations against enemies. It is a bang-up, interesting, historically accurate novel that takes the reader right into the world of India at the time. It is a good read, but a glossary would be a BIG help. The author never bats an eye at using all the arcane words of that time for anything associated with the cavalry and weaponry. It can be a little much at times. I also think the reader should read the first volume first.
 Mallinson; Honorable Company;$23.95;299pp;Bantam Books;NY;2000; ISBN 0-553-11134-5

Six Crooked Highways; Wayne Johnson
            It appears that this is the second book in a series that stars Paul Two Persons (the first person narrator), who is  an Indian, living on the Red Lakes Reservation in Minnesota's Lake of the Woods. He runs a resort there, and is building a lodge for his visitors.  Also starring are his wife, Gwen, and his on-and-off friend, Charlie Groten, the cop on the Reservation. Suddenly there again appear efforts to put in a road on the Reservation, and several deaths occur. Paul has vigorously opposed the road in the past. He also has a checkered past - several people he has encountered ended up dead. It seems that a visiting police officer, Michaels, from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, is convinced that Paul is responsible for the current deaths, and is spinning a web of evidence. The story follows Paul's efforts at his resort, his gradual uncovering, with the help of Charlie, a complex dangerous scam that involves 50 million dollars, and the involvement of the two with dirty cops. It is a well told  action, suspense, mystery yarn that is a real attention holder with an interesting plot and interesting characters. I shall read the first one - I suspect that would be the best one to start with for any reader.
 NOTE: Johnson is an Indian who grew up on Reservations in the country he describes. He has acquired a number of accolades for his writing.
 Johnson,W.; Six Crooked Highways;$23;303pp;Random House; NY;2000; ISBN 0-609-60459-7

Perish Twice; Robert B. Parker
             Parker has been expanding from his Spenser novels, and one direction he has taken is to write a sort of female Spenser series of yarns. I was not aware of this until I picked up this book, which is narrated by female, former cop, Boston PI Sunny Randall. She is divorced and in love with her ex-husband (related to the local Irish Mafia) whom she sees once a week. The love is mutual - they simply could not live as man and wife. In the story there are three separate tales going. One concerns her sister whom she dislikes. The sister thinks her husband is fooling around, and has Sunny find out if  that's so. It is, and the book has Sunny following the disintegration of the marriage. Then there is her best friend Julie, who with a husband and two children, decides that she wants to be her own person, and wants out of the marriage. Sheez... The other story involves a case that she takes for a prominent lesbian feminist, who is being stalked. The latter case becomes a complex one, a woman in the feminist's office is killed - presumably mistaken for the activist. Sunny is fired, but continues on her own, and uncovers several more layers of the case; some involve a major crime lord in the area, and his ring of prostitutes. I think that Spencer does it better - and has to do far less amateur psychological counseling!
 Parker;R.B.; Perish Twice;$23.95;292pp;G.P. Putnam's Sons;NY;2000; ISBN 0-399-14668-7

Grimm's Last Fairytale; Haydn Middleton;
              It is 1863, and in this historical novel (by an historian) Jacob Grimm is traveling in Germany to Hesse, the area of his youth, accompanied by his niece, Auguste, and his new manservant, Kummel. There are three stories in one: the story of the 1863 trip to Hesse, the story of the growing up of Jacob and Wilhelm and their collecting  of folk tales, and a detailed Cinderella story, told from the point of view of the most unusual 'prince.' All three are attention holding. The shift in time between the present and the past is indicated by a double space - and the reader must be aware of that, or the first sentences that follow the space will be confusing. The long story of the Prince is told in chapters. I find this type of presentation somewhat taxing, but with a little practice one can juggle the stories to fit. It is an interesting picture of rural Germany of the time, and of the Grimm brothers and their efforts. In the present, both Auguste and Kummel have secrets; that of Kummel is startlingly indicative of a problem that is deep-seated in Germany. The tale of the Prince Charming is a dark one, with a grisly ending - like many of the original tales! Fascinating book.
 Middleton,H,; Grimm's Last Fairy Tale;$23.95;249pp;St. Martin's Press;NY;1999;ISBN 0-312-27290-1

Mesmerized; Gayle Lynds
               Beth Convey is a brilliant, upward-bound attorney. She is in court for a  wealthy female client who is divorcing her husband, and while cross examining the man she attempts to make him lose his temper and win her case - she does, but suffers a heart attack on the spot. She undergoes a heart transplant from a male motorcyclist, a Russian, who was killed in an accident, and her whole world changes. She begins to experience dreams about being a Russian, suddenly develops a taste for vodka, and begins to be aware of other unusual influences that would seem to be somehow emanating from the previous owner of the heart! In the meantime, Jeffrey Hammond, of the Washington Post, is getting involved again with some former KGB acquaintances, a former friend of his in the FBI is attempting to locate a deep mole in the FBI (and begins to think Jeffrey is part of the mole's operation), and a Russian agent is building up an assassination attempt to take place when the presidents of the USA and Russia meet in Washington. Hammond is neatly framed for two killings as he attempts to locate the Soviet agent, and the tempo accelerates as Hammond and Convey join forces and attempt to avoid the law in order to  find out what the Russian agent's plans are. Convey's heart donor was a former colleague of the Russian agent, and the strange memories that she has turn out to be helpful. An intriguing, action-filled, espionage tale. There is an interesting, referenced, Author's Note in which the author discusses her (and others) thesis that there is such a thing as cellular memories that may in fact be transplanted along with hearts! (Bah)
Lynds,G.; Mesmerized;$24.95;45499;Pocket Books;NY;2001; ISBN 0-671-02407-8

Stranger in Paradise; Eileen Goudge
              Interesting surprise. I took the library book because of the author's name: Goudge - didn't look at the jacket. After reading a bit, I was tad perplexed; didn't seem like Goudge's work. Then I looked at the jacket. It couldn't be the Goudge I thought it was! And it wasn't; I had expected Elizabeth Goudge. I had forgot the first name, but the E seemed right! Ah well, might as well continue reading. Jan Karon has a STRONG competitor. Instead of the small town of Mitford in North Carolina, and its interesting inhabitants who live in a feel-good soap opera world, we have the small California town of Carson Springs with interesting inhabitants who live in a feel good soap opera world! Actually, the latter inhabitants are more interesting. A key individual is 48 year old Samantha Kiley, whom we meet as she is marrying off a 28 year old daughter to fabulously rich, 54 year old Les Carpenter. We follow her as she falls for Wes Carpenter's earring-wearing, artist son, ends up sleeping with him (sizzling sex scenes here as well as else where) and becomes pregnant! We also meet her two daughters, Alice who married Wes, and Laura whose marriage broke up because she couldn't have children. Laura takes in strays, including Finch, a 16 year old New York girl, who has run away from her NY foster home....... You see how it goes. I enjoyed it. I was feeling low down, and in the mood for something  like it, and when things ended happily (after the strange murderer was caught) I was satisfied. It is promised that this is only the first book in The Carson Springs Series - sort of like The Mitford Years with more zip. Can hardly wait.... Well, that MIGHT be overstating it.
 Goudge,E.; Strangers in Paradise;$24.95;321pp;Penguin Group;NY;2001; ISBN 0-670-89987-9

The Devil's Code; John Sandford            (series)
               I was not aware that Sandford had written any series other than his 'Prey' collection. It appears that ten years or so ago he created one starring Kidd - not only NMI, but no first name. Kidd is described by his best friend as " aging jock-nerd-engineer-fisherman-artist..." His best friend is LouEllen, whose last name he doesn't know, nor does he know anything about her life - except that she is a professional thief. Kidd himself is a successful artist, but also a thief - he has a 'nighttime' job stealing computer code, schematics for new chips or computers, designs for new cars etc..  He is anti-authority, and  is a first rate hacker, part of a large hacker community via the Net and the phone; they rarely know each other directly. One direct acquaintance was Jack Morrison, and as the story opens Morrison is murdered. His sister had been told to tell Kidd, and she does. The story follows the attempts of Kidd, LouEllen, and Jack's sister to find out why he was killed. He worked for a cybersecurity firm headed by St. John Corbeil, and gradually it develops that Corbeil may be involved in a very lucrative and illegal scam that involves super secret parts of the government's Intelligence operations. Kidd and his cohorts, with the help of his hacker network, unravel the scheme. It is an adventure, action semi-mystery, and well told. The characters are different, and interesting, and the hacker, Net milieu is quite different. I shall read the two old stories.
 Sandford;J.; The Devil's Code;$25.95;321pp;G.P. Putnam's Sons;NY;2000; ISBN 0-399-14650-4

Great Feuds in History: Ten of the liveliest disputes ever; Colin Evans            (nf)
             A well written, interesting, informative, and sad book. Evans discusses very well the feuds of Elizabeth I and Mary, Parliament vs. Charles I, Burr vs. Hamilton, Hatfields and McCoys, Stalin and Trotsky, Amundson vs. Scott, Duchess of Windsor and the Queen Mother, Montgomery vs. Patton, Johnson vs. Kennedy, and Hoover vs. King. I learned surprising things, and I found it sad that so much brilliance and energy was stunted by so much hate and vengeance. It is a fascinating but discomforting read. There is a good bibliography, a good index, and adequate notes.
 Evans,C.; Great Feuds in History; $24.95; 242pp; John Wiley; NY; 2001; ISBN 0-471-38038-5

The Book of Q; Jonathan Rabb
            Wow! It has it all. You have to understand that I am a true lover of 'quest' stories. And when the quest is for an ancient document that may change the whole world, I am enthralled, and when the document is the key to the Christian gospels - I am euphoric. When one adds lots of church history,  puzzle solving, chases, danger, love, and a conspiracy in the Catholic Church - what more could I ask! This is a neat gallop through these elements. We meet Ian Pearse when he is a relief worker in Bosnia, and has a brief romance. When we next meet him he is a priest in the Roman Catholic Church, living in the Vatican. A friend discloses the hiding place of an ancient manuscript, which seems to be a document of the early Manichaean sect, and the friend vanishes. With the help of a scholarly friend, Pearse, who is no mean scholar himself, sets out to decipher the codes and cryptograms in the text, and finds himself under attack. The document indicates that there is another valuable, hidden document, and he unearths that, only to find that there is one final document - the key document for the Manichaean cult - a cult that he finds is very extensive,  and very threatening. After many adventures, in which he finds his Bosnian love, the story sweeps to an unexpected denouement, and an intriguing ending. I am fascinated by the author's impressive discussion of  codes, ciphers, and cryptograms - and by his knowledge of the Gnostic Gospels and the Manichaean cult (the latter has elements from Persia). He invents a very persuasive Q document too! If your reading experience has not included the latter (THIS IS NOT THE Q LETTERS!), you may find the story a tad puzzling, but I'll bet you enjoy it.  Somewhat similar things have appeared, but this is a good one of the genre.
 Rabb;J; The Book of Q;$23.95;376pp;Crown Publishers;NY;2001; ISBN 0-609-60483-X

Handling Sin; Michael Malone          (pb)
                A month ago I had never heard of Michael Malone, Then I read, by chance, and with delight, his wonderful, old Times Witness. Two weeks ago, in the public library, I was astounded to find a newly printed old book by Malone - this one. It has taken me a while to read this 622 page, scintillating, picaresque novel that I could not go through at my usual high rate of speed. There is page after page of brilliant description, masterful characterization, and highly improbable, yet almost believable derring-do. It has gorgeous throw away lines, pages of dead pan humor, and laugh out loud situations. It is also a wacked-out Quest story, an adventure story, and a story of love, redemption, and forgiveness. The Hero is angst ridden Raleigh Whittier Hayes. He lives in Thermopylae, a town in the North Carolina Piedmont country. He is a successful insurance salesman, a former Army tanker in Germany, a straight-laced pillar of the community, married to Aura, with two teen age daughters who are totally beyond his comprehension. His father, Early, a defrocked Episcopal priest, is in the hospital with a bad heart, and blackouts. One morning Early vanishes from the hospital. He cleans out his bank account, buys a new Cadillac, and with a young black girl at his side, drives out of Thermopylae, and vanishes. Raleigh receives from him a bag of cash, and a tape. The tape sets forth a series of baffling things that Raleigh must do before meeting his father in New Orleans in two weeks. Then the omniscient teller of the tale spins out Raleigh's Odyssey as he sets out, along with his fat friend and neighbor, Mingo, to accomplish the tasks, and to make his way to his father about whom he is very worried. Along the way he and Mingo pick up a motley set of tag-alongs, and encounter a bewildering set of bizarre adventures. And he gradually develops an increasing self awareness, and finds himself in serious introspective periods. And in pages that dwell on the past, we gradually learn about Raleigh's youth, his family, and the things that shaped his life. This is a raucous, Keystone Kops adventure that has elements of Rabelais, Cervantes, and Mark Twain. It is a comic, touching, often very poignant, engaging story with exaggerated, and yet very believable characters. There were times I found a lump in my throat, and at the perfectly fitting ending I had to swallow very hard, many times. Wonderful.
 NOTE: Be warned, the vocabulary is very 'earthy' in spots. As a result of lengthy construction camp and  military surrounds I am desensitized to 'bad' words - and they are quite appropriate to the story. Bette tends to be more sensitive!
 Malone,M; Handling Sin;$14.95;622pp; Sourcebooks, Inc; Naperville,IL '1983' 2001; ISBN 1-57071-756-7

A Painted House; John Grisham
              A very different, change-of-pace novel by Grisham. I would not have picked it up - I do not like lawyer stories - but a note in a local Internet book forum stated that the story contained no lawyers! And it doesn't. This novel draws on Grisham's boyhood in Arkansas, and he evokes a bucolic picture of place and time. There is essentially no plot, rather it is a sort of coming of age story - or, better, a loss of innocence story. The first person narrator is Luke Chandler who is telling us of a period when he was an intelligent, perceptive 7 year old. When we meet him he lives with his parents and grandparents on a cotton farm in Arkansas. His 19 year old uncle is in Korea. The time is 1952, and it is cotton picking time. We watch through his eyes as his grandfather and father set in motion the acquisition of laborers, some are hill people from the Ozarks, some are Mexicans. One large family of mountain people camp in the Chandler's front lawn. The Mexicans are housed in the barn. Luke tells us of his hard work in the cotton fields with the men in the family and the laborers. We also are with him as he is fascinated by a 17 year old girl in the hill family, follows big league baseball eagerly (it is a big thing in his family), visits the local town, buys candy, meets with other children, goes to church, to the cotton gin, etc.. As the story progresses, the 7 year old acquires knowledge of the world as he encounters violent death, a birth that seems to involve his absent uncle as parent, and a flood that wipes out the cotton crop. Sound grim? It is not; not by any means. It is gripping, touching, and beautifully told. There is some stereotyping - and some characters are not developed fully - perhaps the point of view of a child. The title refers to a major transformation of  his grandparent's house - which is symbolic of  a major transformation in his life at the end of the book. Through the story are episodes that involve the boy and baseball. One includes seeing TV for the very first time. I was struck by a sudden memory of  seeing a small TV screen for the first time, at about the same time as Luke did! (I was considerably older than Luke, however!)
 Grisham,J.; A Painted House; $27.95;388pp;Doubleday;NY;2001; ISBN 0-385-50120-X

On Bear Mountain; Deborah Smith
              An interesting Romance - not quite what I expected! The protagonists are Ursula Powell, who has returned to her childhood home in Georgia after her father's death, and Quenton Riconni, a New Yorker who is the son of a famous sculptor. Their lives connect because of an iron sculpture of a bear, commissioned by a  woman in Tiberville, Georgia, for a local college campus. Except for Ursala's father, who loved the abstraction, people in the area hated it. When the commissioner died, Ursala's father bought the bear, and set it up on his property. The story alternates between the lives of Ursula and Quenton, as they grow from children to adults - both with problems with their fathers. Quenton's father's sculptures become increasingly sought after, and very valuable. Trying to trace the bear sculpture, Quenton accidentally learns that it exists, and travels to Tiberville  to buy it. The rest of the story deals with subsequent events in Georgia. The current value of the sculpture is a couple of million dollars, but Ursula won't sell. Her autistic brother, Arthur, is emotionally attached to the iron bear. Only if  Arthur says the bear can go, will Quenton be able to have it. Quenton sets out to try to convince Arthur, and naturally Quenton and Ursula fall in love. The story then revolves around the three as they adjust to a variety of  developments that include encounters with an influential family that hates the bear!  It is a pleasant, leisurely paced, and at times surprising story, and I enjoyed it
 Smith,D.; On Bear Mountain;$23.95;342pp;Little Brown;NY;NY;2001; ISBN 0-316-80077-5

Sharp Edges; Jayne Ann Krantz
             This was on the shelves of one of the library reading rooms at our retirement place. This time I KNOW it's a Romance because I looked up the definition on the Internet! It is a very satisfying beach read about love, crime, suspense, and mystery. Eugenia is director of a glass museum. Cyrus, is director of a large security organization. She is headed for an island, near Seattle, to catalog a large art-glass collection that belonged to a man who recently died after falling down a flight of stairs. She has a secret agendum: to look into the strange disappearance of a friend who had been on the Island. Cyrus, whom she doesn't know, angles to go along (she doesn't want him) because a client wants to have him verify that the death of the collector was indeed an accident. His secret agendum is to look for a classic, valuable, underground piece of glass sculpture: The Hades Cup. He lost his wife and almost his life because of that item, and he wants to find the cup, and the man who stole it. The story is the adventures of this seemingly totally mismatched couple, as they carry out their investigations. Good yarn.
 NOTE: I think the real reason I picked this up was because Bette is busily into a new activity of making stained glass pieces - and doing a fabulous job! She also enjoyed this book.
 Krentz;J.A.; Stained Glass;$24;320pp;Pocket Books; NY;1998; ISBN 0-671-52310-4

Reunion: A Pip & Flinx novel; Alan Dean Foster           (sf)
            Again: only for Science Fiction readers of these notes, and because I like Foster. It is the eighth in the series that stars Flinx, a young man who has an unusual mind, and erratic, remarkable powers as a result of genetic alteration experiments. His companion, Pip, is a dangerous, mini-dragon pet. Flinx is still on his quest to unearth [a pun] his past. I have found the series a great set of yarns, but I found this one to be far less attention holding, and found I liked Flinx less. Maybe I've been away too long. At the end he finds and uses another Tar-Aiym weapon control system - the kind that was the subject of the first book in the series.
 Foster,A.D.; Reunion;$24;329pp;Ballantine;NY;2001; no ISBN

Cold and Pure and Very Dead; Joanne Dobson          (series)
               Amanda Cross (Carolyn Heilbrun)- make room! Another mystery series written by a female Professor (Associate) of English, starring a female Professor of English - one who seems to get involved with murders. And I must admit she's a bit more hip than Kate Fansler! I have read none of the others in the series, but I found this one a delight. Karen Pellitier is the Professor, and the book has a very interesting premise. Pellitier gives an interview to a somewhat irritating Arts reporter from the New York Times, Milton Katz, and when asked what she thinks is the best novel of the twentieth century, she says, flippantly and provocatively, Oblivion Falls, a 1957 novel that she had just finished rereading: a good story, a roman de clef about hypocrisies in a New England college town, and replete with torrid sex scenes. To her dismay, the Times runs a big article on the interview, and notes that the woman who wrote the novel had vanished years ago, after the novel became a hit. That article triggers an astounding series of events. Suddenly the novel starts selling again - like wildfire. Katz starts digging into the mystery of the vanished woman author, and finds her living on a farm, raising goats. He is found dead in her driveway, shot by a weapon that has her fingerprints. She is arrested for the killing. The story (told in the first person) follows Pelletier as she starts digging into the case - she is convinced the author is innocent - and gets involved with a number of new additions to the English department, and gradually finds that they are somehow related to the case. She is helped in her investigations by a local cop who gradually becomes a love interest. The story moves along at a good clip, with some interesting characterization ( and some that don't quite work it seems to me), interesting situations, and a complicated set of wheels within wheels. With tongue in cheek the author deftly, but fairly accurately, skewers the academic world, and those who inhabit it.  There are, I think, a few too many gratuitous coincidences, but I enjoyed the story, and I shall read others in the series.
 Dobson,J.; Cold and Pure and Very Dead;$22.95;258pp;Doubleday;NY;2000;ISBN 0-385-49340-1

Saving Faith; David Baldacci
             Another of the tight suspense stories that Baldacci creates so well. But it does have a background that has been used in a fair number of such yarns: a very secret small group of government insiders are engaged in very covert activities. In this case the group is a CIA group, headed by a CIA zealot Robert Thornhill, Deputy Director of Operations, who hates the FBI. He is working to get the CIA back into shape, and has in mind blackmailing politicians to get appropriations increased. He thinks that the actions will be compromised by a woman - Faith Lockhart - who has promised to tell the FBI what she knows about her long term colleague, Danny Buchanan, who has been bribing politicians for some years. Buchanan is key to Thornhill's plans, so he arranges for the killing of Lockhart, and her FBI escort, at a remote FBI safe house. The assassination is foiled by a private investigator, Lee Adams, who has located the safe house, and broken into it. He leaves when Lockhart and her escort arrives, and when the assassin shoots the escort, Adams shoots the assassin. He then goes on the lam, taking Lockhart with him. The book follows them as they attempt to avoid the FBI, and the CIA (although they do not know that) and gradually fall in love. Their paths intersect with those of Buchanan, and female FBI agent Brooke Reynolds, whom Lockhart had first approached. It is a dandy suspense story, with surprising turns - vintage Baldacci. And, as always, a real page turner.
 Baldacci,D.; Saving Faith;$26.95;451pp;Warner Books;NY;1999; ISBN 0-446-52577-4

Odd Gods: New Religions & the Cult Controversy; James R. Lewis (ed.)             (nf)
               This is a very dense, 435 page book, on which I have spent a fair amount of time, but have not read all of it. I found it interesting, informative in places, and vastly irritating. Lewis, the editor, who also writes a lot of the book, is indicated as a teacher of religious studies at U. Of Wisconsin. There is no information at all on other contributors. This book is Lewis's view of the cult controversy: that is the classification of many 'new religions' as 'cults' - usually by the media. The classification is almost always a negative one - so that the word 'cult' is now a completely pejorative one. As far as Lewis is concerned, they are all 'new religions' and are unfairly condemned because of the excesses of a few. And those excesses really arise out of frustration with how the members of the religion are treated by the media and the law. He dutifully notes that a few outfits are, or have been dangerous groups, but as far as the book is concerned all new religions are stereotyped as 'cults', and that just isn't right. The Jonestown tragedy, in which a New Religion killed off 900 members, a congressman, and three newsmen, resulted from: "...the refusal of Jim Jones, his staff, and the loyalists among his followers to compromise with opponents whom they believed were out to destroy Jonestown." So basically, it was all the fault of critics of Jones and his Religion! Lewis has several good points, but basically he is on the side of ALL the New Religions, and he is careful to avoid criticizing ANY of them - as far as I can see. UFOs, Spiritualism, poltergeists, telekinetics, levitation, thought projection and any other such pieces of tripe are presented as fact. I think that Lewis is trying to indicate that to the believers they are real, and that it is not up to him to judge. As far as he is concerned, all religions started as 'New', i.e. Cults, and he has very interesting histories to relate - e.g. The cult of Protestantism. He also covers well the history of litigation about cults, and the problems with 'deprogramming' practices. He lays out a series of warning signs that suggest when a New Religion is becoming very questionable and possibly dangerous, then discusses zillions of the New Religions without ever applying his criteria. It is certainly an interesting collection of many nutty ideas - but there were too many for me. An interesting book that could have been much better if he had not dutifully accepted everything as God-given 'revelations'! And the index is terrible! Sheez... I guess my hard earned prejudices are showing.
 Lewis,J.R.; Odd Gods;$?;435pp;Prometheus Books;Amherst,NY;2001; ISBN 1-57392-842-9

Vulgarians at the Gate: Trash TV and Raunch Radio -  Raising the Standards of Popular Culture; Steve Allen                                                                        (nf)
          I think this is Allen's 56th book. He has previously taken on the popular culture, particularly its descent into being increasingly dumb. This time he takes out after the increasing sleaze and vulgarity in radio, TV, movies, music, literature, and journalism. He lays out what he sees as the problem, and gives copious examples. I was quite taken aback by the lyrics that he presents as the creation of current rappers; not only vulgar, but dangerous to women! He takes a great deal of space to present the sleaze that is Madonna's main characteristic, including conversations with a TV host. There are a host of other examples. Fundamentally, the problem comes down to the fact that sleaze makes money! This despite the fact that perhaps 75% of the public says that it doesn't like it. Allen indicates that the consuming audience is mainly composed of males aged 20 and younger. He struggles with freedom of expression, and censorship, and suggests some things that people can do. Of course they have been doing these things for some time - and the situation is getting worse. It is hard to see how the problem can be turned around without turning TV. And that may well be impossible. Allen hopes not; we shall see. He discusses religion, and as a Humanist, has some problems with organized religion and its attitudes. An interesting book, printed in type that is too large, and showing signs of hurried compilation. Not well organized, somewhat disjointed. It will probably have no effect whatsoever on the problem. Depressing.
 Allen,S.; Vulgarians at the Gate;$?;419pp;Promethius Press;Amherst,NY;2001; ISBN 1-57392-874-7

Back When We Were Grownups; Anne Tyler
            It was recommended by several people (female). I got to page 100 before quitting. It is certainly a 'woman's' book (Bette's note), but it is also one I found distressing. The problem is stated in the very first sentence: "Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person." The angst-laden heroine is Rebecca Davitch, a 53 year old grandmother, to all outward appearances a pleasant, outgoing party giver. That is how the weird Davitch clan sees her - she married into it. Her husband is dead. She begins wondering about what life would have been if only ..., and I finally quit. Beck (as the clan calls her) is a very likable person; I think I suffered too much for her. Bette finished it - she would not recommend it, she says.
 Tyler,A.;Back When We Were Grownups;$25;274pp;Knopf;NY;2001; ISBN 0-375-41253-0

The Sweet Potato Queen's Book of Love; Jill Conner Browne             pb    (nf)
            A considerable surprise. This, and its sequel, were touted to me as a hilarious account of the origin and development of the 'Sweet Potato Queens' who appear annually in a parade in Jackson, Mississippi. The group was started by Browne in the eighties, and to her surprise it became a big hit in the parades, then became famous, and now has a long waiting list of women who would like to join! The Queens dress in sequined dresses, large wigs, drum-majorette boots, with MAJOR augmentation of bust and rear! The first person book does indeed tell the story - and it is a funny, interesting one. Then, however, the book abruptly swings into a ribald, bawdy, raunchy discussion of the Queens, southern women, men, marriage, divorce, sex, eating, boyfriends, etc.. It ends with a presentation of recipes! Some of the latter seem good; the rest of the book I could have skipped. I was reminded of Steve Allen's book about the descent of our culture into vulgarity - and this is an example! Just out of morbid curiosity I shall look for the second book.
 LATER NOTE: Found the second book. A little less raunchy, but I did not finish it.
 Browne,J.B.; The Sweet Potato Queen's Book of Love;$16.95;213pp;Three Rivers Press;NY;1999; ISBN 0-609-80413-8

Last Man Standing; David Baldacci
             Another well executed, complicated, suspense, action, Baldacci story that has a great deal of shoot-em-up in it. Web London is an ex FBI agent, team leader of a hostage rescue team (HRT). As the story starts, London takes his team into a planned invasion of what is supposed to be a drug king's operation. They are to enter the building, occupy it, and take accountants and others who might be able to testify. Unfortunately, they have been set up, and enter a well planned ambush. For some reason, at the critical moment, London freezes and collapses. By the time he struggles to his feet, his team has been annihilated, He is the last man standing, and his reputation is ruined. The rest of the story is the attempt of London to find out what happened to him - in between adventures. He starts seeing a  female psychiatrist in an attempt to find out what happened to him in the ambush. Gradually it appears that he is the center of a conspiracy of violence, a conspiracy aimed directly at him. We follow his violent adventures as an involved
story unfolds, a story that involves hate, vengeance, and corruption at high levels in the FBI. The ending is interesting. I get the impression that the author has left a door through which he might again bring London. It is a dandy, but violent, story of a man at home with violence, a hunter. The story is a  page turner, even though it is long, and filled with a large number of characters.
 Baldacci,D.; Last Man Standing;$26.95;Warner Books;NY;2001; ISBN 0-446-52580

Old Men at Midnight; Chaim Potok
         Potok, that master storyteller, has written three stories in this book. He connects them by having one woman, Davita, in all three. In the first story, told in the first person, she is 18, and becomes an English teacher for a 16 year old who has survived Auschwitz, and come to the USA. Noah is an artist, but doesn't draw anymore. However, gradually, because of Davita's little sister, Noah begins to draw again, and talk about himself. Finally he tells her of Reb Benyomin, the old man in his village who was caretaker of the wooden synagogue. Noah and a friend begin to help  him restore the synagogue, and then find many of the young Jews joining in. Finally Reb Benyomin triumphantly restores the Ark, as the final step in the complete restoration of the synagogue. Two days later the Germans invade, and burn the synagogue - and Benyomin. In the second story it is the fifties, and Davita, who is studying in college, becomes the college escort of a KGB colonel who defected from Russia. She tells him he should write his reminiscences, and he sends her several installments. He is a Jew, and he outlines his life as a youngster in the Army when he nearly lost an arm, which was saved by a famous Jewish surgeon. He goes on to tell of becoming part of the Red army, and rising through the ranks, then becoming part of the KGB, responsible for the interrogation and torture of suspects. As Stalin is nearing death, he comes to believe that all the Jews are traitors, and the worst are the doctors. The KGB colonel is responsible for interrogating them, He finds, in the cells, the doctor who saved his arm. He is a little distressed, but not much. Finally however, it begins to get to him, so he defects - and writes his story for Davita. In the final story Davita is a famous novelist, and moves in to a house next to a University professor, whose wife is suffering from AIDS - brought on by a transfusion. He too has a story to tell, and she finally hears it. He grew up in a Jewish family who sent him to a teacher of liturgy (trope) who was a friend of his father. Both the teacher and his father, he finds, fought against the USA in WWI. As WWII looms on the horizon, the trope teacher returns to Germany and vanishes. The young man joins the army, and encounters one of the extermination camps. The stories are not pleasant, but they are masterfully told. At the moment I cannot see why Potok grouped them. I get the impression he wrote them separately, then tied them together with Davita - who does take on a character of her own. They are haunting, and may have glimmers of hope.
 Potok,C.; Old Men at Midnight;$23;Knopf;NY;2001; ISBN 0-375-41071-6

Our Lady of the Lost and Found: A Novel of Mary, Faith, and Friendship; Diane Schoemperlen
           You have not read anything like this. I found it a captivating, engrossing, scintillating book that the (non Catholic) author calls a novel. I (non Catholic) have my doubts about that. It is sort of a short story that is extended by illuminating, introspective ruminations on Images, Time, Shopping, History, Doubts, Truth, Faith, Grace, Gifts, storytelling, and writing. For thirty pages we learn about the first-person teller of  the tale (whose name we never learn), a single woman who is in her forties, and a successful author. Then, on page 30, she tells of going into her living room to water her plants, and being startled by seeing a woman who is dressed in a blue trench coat, white Nikes, and holding the handle of a small suitcase on wheels. "Fear not," the woman says, "It's me, Mary, Mother of God." And indeed it is. Mary has just been in Mexico, and wants a week of relaxation - she is a very busy soul - and would like to stay with the author. Like, what could the woman say? So Mary stays for a week. The teller of the tale recounts her activities with Mary, nothing out of the ordinary (except for unpinning milagros, which leads to the title of the book), but absolutely wonderful (and quite funny at times; watch for great throw away lines). Mary tells of her life, (the reader will learn how Luke learned the things in his Gospel) and the writer tells of many of the sightings of Mary that have occurred over the ages (some with aside remarks by Mary). Many of them, the writer tells us, she learned by reading after Mary had gone. And there are intriguing tales of various saints. Interspersed are personal comments on physics (pertinent), philosophy (insightful), History and history (VERY clever, and sometimes delightful), and personal illuminations of a variety of other concerns that are of importance to all of us. Right after the table of contents there is a page with only five words on it. Be sure to read them, and do not miss the very interesting set of Author's Notes at the end. I will be interested to know how people feel about this deceptively  profound book, and I am not quite sure of the audience. But it is one of the most delightful books I have read for a very long time. I shall buy a copy.
 NOTE: Bette and I recently attended a fascinating lecture on certain aspects of 15th, 16th, and 17th century Netherlandish art, especially  triptychs of the Madonna and child. Thus, when I saw the book cover, I recognized the theme ? even though it is a painting by Salvador Dali. I mention this because when the author describes the painting she is in error ? and I felt pretty smug about recognizing that!
 NOTE OF CONFESSION: In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that although (as stated above) I am non Catholic, as a child I dutifully said the 'Hail Mary' nightly at my mother's knee for many years (a censored version to be sure!) My mother was Irish Catholic, and my father was German Lutheran. I grew up unchurched ? but my mother was determined that I would at least learn the 'Our Father' and 'Hail Mary'. True, the word 'womb' was not included in the latter. I was well over twenty one before I learned, by chance, that there was an uncensored version!
 Schoemperlen,D.; Our Lady of the Lost and Found;$24.95;Viking;NY; 2001; ISBN 0-670-89977-1


 Alexander,B.; The Color of Death, 7
 Allen,S.; Vulgarians At The Gate, 18
 Andrews,R.; Murder of Honor, 10
 Baldacci,D.; Last Man Standing, 19
 Baldacci,D.; Saving Faith, 17

 Baldacci,D.; Wish You Well, 3
 Bisson,T.; The Pickup Artist, 10
 Bourdain,A.; Typhoid Mary, 2
 Breuer,W.B.; Secret Weapons of World War II, 7
 Brock;D,; Havana Heat, 6

 Browne,J.C.; The Sweet Potato Queen's Book of Love, 18
 Buchanan.E.; You Only Die Twice, 8
 Carr,C.; Killing Time, 8
 Clapp;N.; Sheba, 10
 Dickson,G.R.; The Dragon and the Fair Maid of Kent, 2

 Dobson,J.; Cold and Pure and Very Dead, 16
 Dubose,M.H.; Women of Mystery, 9
 Egleton,C.; The Honey Trap, 1
 Evans,C.; Great Feuds in History, 14
 Foster,A.D.; Reunion, 16

 Goudge,E.; Stranger in Paradise, 13
 Grimes,M.; Cold Flat Junction, 1
 Grisham,J.; A Painted House, 15
 Hockenberry,J.; A River out of Eden, 1
 James,P.D.; Death in Holy Orders, 8

 Johnson,W.; Six Crooked Highways, 12
 Krantz,J.A,; Sharp Edges, 16
 Lewis,J(ed); Odd Gods, 17
 Lovesey,P.; The Vault, 5
 Lucaks,D.; Five Days in London, 3

 Lynds,G.; Mesmerized, 13
 Mallinson,A.; Honorable Company, 11
 Malone,M.; Handling Sin, 14
 Maron,M.; Uncommon Clay, 4
 McCarthy,P.; McCarthy's Bar, 2

 Middleton,H.; Grimm's Last Fairytale, 12
 Mitchell,K.; Ancient Ones, 4
 Molotsky,I.; The Flag, the Poet and the Song, 11
 O'Connell,C,; Shell Game, 6
 O'Connell,C.; Judas Child, 5

 Parker,R.B.; Perish Twice, 12
 Parry,O.; Faded Coat of Blue, 4
 Potok,C.; Old Men at Midnight, 19
 Rabb,J.; The Book of Q, 14
 Sandford,J,; The Devil_s Code, 13

 Shoemperlen,D.; Our Lady of the Lost and Found., 20
 Smith,D.; On Bear Mountain, 15
 Tyler,Anne; Back When We Were Grownups, 18
 White,E.B.; The Trumpet of the Swan, 9


 A Painted House; John Grisham, 15
 A River out of Eden; John Hockenberry, 1
 Ancient Ones; Kirk Mitchell, 4
 Back When We Were Grownups; Anne Tyler, 18
 Cold and Pure and Very Dead; Joanne Dobson, 16

 Cold Flat Junction; Martha Grimes, 1
 Death in Holy Orders; P.D. James, 8
 Faded Coat of Blue; Owen Parry, 4
 Five Days in London; David Lukacs, 3
 Great Feuds in History; Colin Evans, 14

 Grimm_s Last Fairytale; Haydn Middleton, 12
 Handling Sin; Michael Malone, 14
 Havana Heat; Darryl Brock, 6
 Honorable Company; Allan Mallinson, 11
 Judas Child; Carol O_Connell, 5

 Killing Time; Caleb Carr, 8
 Last Man Standing; David Baldacci, 19
 McCarthy_s Bar; Pete McCarthy, 2
 Mesmerized; Gayle Lynds, 13
 Murder of Honor; Robert Andrews, 10

 Odd Gods; James R. Lewis (ed.), 17
 Old Men at Midnight; Chaim Potok, 19
 On Bear Mountain; Deborah Smith, 15
 Our Lady of the Lost and Found; Diane Schoemperlen, 20
 Perish Twice; Robert B. Parker, 12

 Reunion; Alan Dean Foster, 16
 Saving Faith; David Baldacci, 17
 Secret Weapons of World War II; William B. Breuer, 7
 Sharp Edges; Jayne Ann Krantz, 16
 Sheba; Nicholas Clapp, 10

 Shell Game; Carol O_Connell, 6
 Six Crooked Highways; Wayne Johnson, 12
 Stranger in Paradise; Eileen Goudge, 13
 The Book of Q; Jonathan Rabb, 14
 The Color of Death; Bruce Alexander, 7

 The Devil_s Code; John Sandford, 13
 The Dragon and the Fair Maid of Kent; Gordon R. Dickson, 2
 The Flag, the Poet and the Song; Irvin Molotsky, 11
 The Honey Trap; Clive Egleton, 1
 The Pickup Artist; Terry Bisson, 10

 The Sweet Potato Queen_s Book of Love; Jill Connor Browne, 18
 The Trumpet of the Swan; E.B.White, 9
 The Vault; Peter Lovesey, 5
 Typhoid Mary; Anthony Bourdain, 2
 Uncommon Clay; Margaret Maron, 4

 Vulgarians At The Gate; Steve Allen, 18
 Wish You Well; David Baldacci, 3
 Women of Mystery; Martha Hailey Dubose, 9
 You Only Die Twice; Edna Buchanan, 8