by Jesse Garon
This very short mystery (at less than 200 pages in paperback, and those in type twice the size of most other books, one hesitates to call it a novel) is the 11th in a series in which Alice Nestleton, a former off-Broadway actress, invariably runs into cats and murder and ends up solving the crime. In this particular one, she finds a dead body at a fashion shoot and suspects foul play, and so on and so on. Lydia Adamson, who also authors another mystery series in which a veterinarian solves crimes, is the pseudonym of "a noted mystery writer who lives in New York," who most likely uses his or her real name on novels that aren't churned out like clockwork as this series is.
Max Allan Collins and Mickey Spillane, eds.
Murder is My Business (Signet, $5.99)
As the market for short mystery fiction dwindles, mystery writers Max Allan Collins and Mickey Spillane have decided to launch a series of paperback anthologies of original fiction, each volume centered around a particular theme. The first volume contains 17 stories dealing with professional killers; Collins presents a short story featuring Quarry, the protagonist of five novels, while Spillane contributes a 90-page potboiler from 1953, previously uncollected, called "Everybody's Watching Me" ("Then I knew how hard the back of his hand was because he smashed it across my jaw, and I could taste the blood where my teeth bit into my cheek"). Among the other writers contributing are Lawrence Block, Andrew Greeley, Barry N. Malzberg, Henry Slesar and Ed Gorman.
Black Cross (Signet, $6.50)
Greg Iles' first novel, Spandau Phoenix, dealt with the intriguing possibility that the prisoner held for more than 40 years in Spandau might not have been Rudolf Hess after all. In Black Cross, the author returns to World War II for his source material, exploring in a fictional setting the reasons why, having developed the poison gas Sarin, the Nazis never deployed it. An American chemical engineer and a Zionist terrorist form an uneasy alliance, brought together by the British, but ultimately strike out on their own in a remote SS concentration camp.
Blanche Among the Talented Tenth (Penguin, $5.95)
Blanche White is a strong-minded African-American woman who has spent her life
cleaning up after people, saving up so that she could send her kids to private
schools. When she goes to visit them at an all-black resort in Maine, however,
she soon realizes that the education they've been getting isn't just academic.
Conflict arises between Blanche and her daughter over skin-color prejudice among
different hues of black. When two people die under mysterious circumstances,
Blanche begins poking around at great risk to herself, not all of which comes
from the expected sources. The racial issues are subtly introduced within the
context of the narrative, as Neely generally avoids having characters make
speeches for the sake of iterating viewpoints.