Mystery fiction

The Colorado Kid, by Stephen King

Stephen King keeps threatening to call it quits. There's just one hitch. Like Christine, the deranged car from one of his best-known novels, King seems incapable of slowing down.

The latest evidence? "The Colorado Kid," a taut tale filled with engaging characters and old-school suspense. It eschews trademark gore in favor of enchanting meditations on unsolved crimes and unresolved stories.

Not that the old master fully retreats from his old haunts. A corpse, discovered in 1980, propels this lovingly hard-boiled mystery set in present-day coastal Maine. At The Weekly Islander, a paper where two old men comprise the entire staff, an intern elicits the dizzying details of the corpse's indelible history from the perspective of the geriatric newspapermen.

Says Vince Teague, a still-spry 90-year-old reporter: "In real life, the number of actual stories - those with beginnings, middles, and ends - are slim and none."

This makes them all the more intriguing, as any never-retiring novelist no doubt realizes. Grade: B+
- Erik Spanberg

Cinnamon Kiss, by Walter Mosley

Detective Easy Rawlins needs money - fast. His daughter is ill, and he has to find $35,000 to pay for experimental treatment. His best friend, Mouse, suggests knocking over an armored car, but Easy decides to take a job up in San Francisco, tracking down a missing lawyer and his secretary, Philomena "Cinnamon" Cargill. Turns out robbing the armored car might have been the safer option. Mosley has fun introducing Easy to hippies and the "summer of love," but "Cinnamon Kiss" lacks the moral heft of last year's searing "Little Scarlet." Even when he's not at his best, though, Mosley is still better than most. Grade: B
- Yvonne Zipp

Tilt-a-Whirl, by Chris Grabenstein

Sea Haven, N.J., is the kind of resort town where crime means stolen tricycles, and the police interrogation room is used to store Christmas decorations. So when a billionaire tycoon is shot dead on an amusement park ride, it's fortunate that ex-military policeman John Ceepak is the first officer on the scene. To hear his partner, "summer cop" Danny Boyle, tell it, Ceepak is such a straight arrow that he probably can't bend at the waist. But his code of honor gets tested to its limits as he tries to find the tycoon's missing daughter. Funny, smart, and smoothly written, "Tilt-A-Whirl" is all kinds of twisty fun. Grade: A-
- Y.Z.

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