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Book Reviews

Nine-year-old Harry Pickles and his parents are recovering from perhaps the most horrendous event that can happen to a family.

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Noir: Three Novels of Suspense by Richard Matheson. (Forge Books, $14.95). Even if you've never heard of Richard Matheson you're probably familiar with his work. He was a writer on the original Twilight Zone series (he wrote the famous one in which a hysterical William Shatner is terrorized by a monster on the wing of an airplane). Over the years his books have been turned into films starring everyone from Charlton Heston to Kevin Bacon to Robin Williams. Matheson is a prodigious writer whose work freely crosses genre lines. Noir includes reissues of three of his entries in the crime-noir canon of the 1950s. It might be easy to dismiss work from 50 years ago as old-fashioned, especially in an era of cable television and NC-17 movies. However, even after half a century, this trio of novellas still effectively delivers one sexy, exciting punch after another. Like the brevity of the title suggests, these are simple, dark tales. They are filled with homicidal beauties, rampaging killers and good men whose bad mistakes are catching up with them. Love and revenge are the only driving motives for these characters, but they're enough. The three stories clip along unburdened by subplots or sentiment, and despite coming from a generation considered quaint by most, these tales match anything you're likely to see from Quentin Tarantino or The Sopranos. -- Steve Newman

Hide and Seek: A Novel by Clare Sambrook. (Canongate Books, $21). Nine-year-old Harry Pickles and his parents are recovering from perhaps the most horrendous event that can happen to a family; his five-year-old brother has disappeared on a school outing. Harry, formerly a carefree Londoner living with his doctor father and newspaper columnist mother, narrates the heart-breaking impact this single event has on his family, including the estrangement of his parents, the awkwardness among his friends who no longer are comfortable in his presence and his mother's breakdown. Brilliantly showcasing the range of emotions young Harry feels, including his guilt at not being able to protect his younger brother, Sambrook reveals the devastation that can happen to a family that no longer has "the right number of children," as Harry sees it. She evidences a real knowledge of the grieving process of a family and expertly captures the voice of Harry Pickles, trying to make sense of this disaster. Occasionally funny and always insightful, this is a compelling novel that absorbs the reader until the last page. -- Susan E. Zinner

Mary Mary by James Patterson. (Little, Brown & Company, $27.95). James Patterson packs a lot into his trademark short chapters in Mary Mary, his latest mystery novel. Patterson's chief character, FBI agent Alex Cross, is trying with all his might to take his kids and their beloved caretaker on vacation, but a serial killer keeps murdering Hollywood actresses, continuing to draw him into the case. The killer, self-named Mary Smith, stalks her intended victims, then sends taunting, diary-type emails to them through the computer of an L.A. Times reporter. Initially, the victims are young mothers, and while Cross wonders if Mary Smith is really a woman, every female celebrity with small children in Tinsel Town wonders if she will be next. Cross traverses twists and turns in the case, including a change in the killer's MO and those in his personal life -- a custody battle, an end to his romance with the lovely Jamilla (Patterson fans will recognize her) and the beginning of a new one -- before he finally discovers Mary's true identity. Not as good as 1st to Die, but entertaining to its unexpected conclusion. -- Tamara Shaffer

My Senator and Me: A Dog's Eye View of Washington, D.C. by Senator Edward M. Kennedy. (Scholastic Press, $16.99). A familiar saying in the nation's capital is, "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog." Senator Edward Kennedy apparently did just that. His new buddy Splash, a Portuguese Water Dog, inspired him to pen a children's book from the pup's point of view. Splash accompanies the senator from Massachusetts through a full day in Washington and learns how a bill becomes law. Adventures include riding the underground train from the Senate office building to the Capitol, attending press conferences, debating an education bill in the Senate, a rousing game of fetch and a hearty meal before a good night's sleep, anticipating another big day in Washington -- a place where politicians "try to make our country a better, fairer, safer place for people and animals." The 56-page picture book is illustrated by Caldecott-winning artist David Small. -- Marilyn Soltis

Published: June 01, 2006
Issue: Summer 2006