In a few

It's a mystery to us...

Burglars Can't Be Choosers
Lawrence Block
(Onyx, $5.99)

Onyx launches a reprinting of Lawrence Block's series of mysteries, starring semi-retired professional burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr, with the first novel, originally published in 1977. Bernie gets in a jam when a simple break-in turns into a frame-up for murder. On the run from the police, he needs to figure out why he's been set up, and who's behind it all. As with the rest of the series, Bernie gets through the case thanks to Block's unerring sense of narrative and adept hand at black humor. Strongly recommended.

Murder She Wrote: Martinis and Mayhem
Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain
(Signet, $5.99)

Just like in the TV series, wherever mystery writer Jessica Fletcher goes, somebody dies and she ends up figuring out who killed them. This time around, it's San Francisco, and a trip to a woman's prison introduces Jessica to a woman she suspects may have been wrongly convicted. As you can probably guess, once she starts asking questions, somebody gets nervous and decides that maybe she has to die, but that Jessica Fletcher sure is clever. On the other hand, she's not a very good mystery writer; I had a hard time believing that the first-person voice of this story was really a New Englander in her... late 50s? 60s? It's kind of hard to tell with the eerie photo of Angela Lansbury on the cover. It looks like she's been hanging out with the same dermatologist as Dick Clark these days.

The Deep Blue Good-By
John D. MacDonald
(Fawcett, $6.99)

The Travis McGee books are among the most well-known and highly respected in private detective serial fiction. John D. MacDonald's sleuth, who lives in a houseboat docked off of Fort Lauderdale, does more than solve crimes; he also offers a running commentary on the decline of Florida, as its natural beauty fell prey to developers and tourists. In a new foreword to this reprint of the very first McGee novel, contemporary Florida crime novelist Carl Hiassen acknowledges his solid admiration of MacDonald's hero and pins down what made him so great -- the combination of passionate feeling and an absolute knack for details of time and place, which make McGee's world totally real, and make the reader care as much about it as the protagonist himself does.

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