Whodunit Trends Target All Tastes


AMERICAN TOUGH GUYS CRISS CROSS By Tom Kakonis, New York: St. Martin's Press, 322 pp., $18.95

For all of us law-abiding, lawn-mowing citizens, reading this book is entering another planet. Will ex-cop Morse, now a security guard at a discount dump, be duped into helping rob the place? Tom Kakonis wisely tempers his awful, awful characters with enough humanity to let us turn the pages without guilt.

SWEET WOMEN LIE By Loren Estleman, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 193 pp., $18.95

Loren Estleman's private eye, Amos Walker, surveys Detroit's streets with a weary cynicism no one's gotten right since (sigh) Raymond Chandler. His latest involves a lounge singer and the CIA, but any Walker mystery is worth reading.

STARDUST By Robert Parker, New York: Putnam & Sons, 256 pp., $18.95

The good news for fans of Robert Parker's Spenser series is that with this book, the witty, wry, real Spenser has returned - not the feeble imitation Parker tried to pass off in earlier tomes (but after almost 20 years of Spenser novels, the author was allowed a few dogs). Spenser has ample opportunities for wisecracks as he tackles the showbiz world.


TROPHIES AND DEAD THINGS By Marcia Muller, New York: Mysterious Press, 266 pp., $$16.95

Not so much tough as tenacious, Marcia Muller's sleuth Sharon McCone has been solving crime in San Francisco since 1977. Here she learns why a '60s radical left such a bizarre will. BURN MARKS By Sara Paretsky, New York: Delacorte, 340 pp., $17.95

Chicago private investigator V.I. Warshawski tackles dirty politics and corruption when it affects her family. V.I.'s independent-women prickliness is wearing a little thin, but Sara Paretsky's series remains compelling.


COYOTE WAITS By Tony Hillerman, New York: Harper & Row, 292 pp., $19.95

If you've ignored this series because you heard ``it was all about Indians,'' stop such foolishness at once. Yes, this remarkable series featuring Jim Chee of the Navajo tribal police is set on and around reservations. And yes, much of the series' fascination lies in Tony Hillerman's rendering of Navajo customs and cultures. But as any fine writer will do, Hillerman makes his characters universally appealing (or distasteful) regardless of time, persuasion, or place.


THE IMMEDIATE PROSPECT OF BEING HANGED By Walter Walker, New York: Viking, 302 pp., $17.95

This intelligent, gripping novel of murder and betrayal among the rich didn't get the hoopla it deserved. Narrator Patt Starbuck is asked by his ambitious D.A. boss to find some dirt in a society slaying; Starbuck unearths much more. Walter Walker's writing is spare, intuitive, and funny. GROOTKA By Jon Jackson, Woodstock, Vt.: Countryman/Foul Play, 337 pp., $19.95

Jon Jackson 's first two novels featuring ``Fang'' Mulheisen of the Detroit Police appeared, to critical acclaim but relatively modest sales, in 1977 and 1978 (``The Diehard'' and ``The Blind Pig''). Now Mulheisen is back, as perceptive and calm as ever, linked with retired cop (and outrageous legend) Grootka as they follow the trail of a decades-old murder. Vivid characters, fresh dialogue, and a surprisingly neat plot twist are causing a new, deserved wave of interest.


VESPERS By Ed. McBain, New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 350 pp., $18.95

THREE BLIND MICE By Ed McBain, New York: Arcade, 293 pp., $18.95

``Vespers'' is an 87th Precinct novel about the murder of a priest. ``Mice'' continues the series featuring Florida lawyer Matt Hope. Prolific Ed McBain proves again why he's lasted decades.


LONGSHOT By Dick Francis, New York: Putnam & Sons, 320 pp., $19.95

Dick Francis has built a solid reputation on reworking the same plot (decent chap, trouble, interesting career, horses, happy ending) in countless comforting books. He respects the reader, offers new job tidbits each time out, and soars when he writes about his beloved horses.

BONES AND SILENCE By Reginald Hill, New York: Delacorte, 332 pp., $17.95

The totally mismatched Yorkshire detective duo of Dalziel and Pascoe has been around for 20 years, yet they're fresh as ever here. The humor mined from pitting polite Pascoe against abusive, coarse Dalziel seems bottomless - once you accustom your palate to Reginald Hill's arch style and parched wit.

DEVICES AND DESIRES By P.D. James, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 433 pp., $19.95

Moody, introspective Commander Adam Dalgliesh of New Scotland Yard (who is also a published poet) believes he's going to a tiny village to sort out an inheritance. Instead, he finds murder and controversy at a nearby nuclear station. Although some longtime Dalgliesh fans wish he'd perk up just a little, most will wallow in P.D. James's controlled exploration of human nature.

DEATH OF A HUSSY By M.C. Beaton, New York: St. Martin's Press, 164 pp., $16.95

No great plotting, but that laconic lad from Lochdubh, police constable Hamish Macbeth, makes this M.C. Beaton series irresistible for fans. All crucial cozy elements are here: small village, eccentric characters, and an endearing sleuth.

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