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Dave Wood's Book Report, Jan. 9, 2008

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Dave Wood's Book Report, Jan. 9, 2008
Cottage Grove Minnesota 7584 80th Street South 55016

Here's a bevy of whodunits to help you through the long and cold January nights.

The trend toward specialized whodunits is never better served than in the works of Sarah Graves who has written several novels in her "Home Repair is Homicide" series, including "Wreck the Halls," "Unhinged," "Mallets Aforethought" and "Tool and Die."

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Her latest is "The Book of Old Houses" (Bantam, $22).

Heroine Jacobia Tiptree, former Manhattan money manager turned New England home remodeler, is busy trying to figure out the book that's been discovered in the foundation of her Eastport, Maine, fixer-upper.

Her name is in the book and looks like it has been written in blood. How did it get into a foundation of an 1823 house? And why?

And when she turned the book over to a local book historian, why did he turn up dead? Was it his spoiled daughter who did him in? Or the local character who's into black magic? Or the mysterious stranger who just arrived in town.

That's the problem Jacobia and her pal Ellie White have to figure out -- when they're not remodeling Jacobia's bathroom.

No wonder the Miami Herald says "mixing slaughter with screwdrivers, renovator-author Sarah Graves wields the pen and paintbrush" behind this series.

"Touchstone," by Edgar Award winner Laurie R. King (Bantam, $24) is set during a fascinating period of modern British history, the Great Strike of 1926.

I've read lots of nonfiction about the Strike, about how ever the very silly and superficial Duke of Windsor was shocked at the working conditions of the poor when he visited the coal mining regions. But I've never seen a novel on the subject.

The strike is on and the government determines there's a terrorist on the loose who could exacerbate an already volatile situation.

In steps Bennett Grey, a World War I veteran who was shell-shocked during a fray.

This has left him with an eerie talent unavailable to anyone else. He can tell whether a watch is gilt or gold by merely touching it. And he can tell whether someone is telling the truth or lying.

Not a bad talent for someone out to find a terrorist.

Kay Hooper's latest is "Blood Dreams" (Bantam, $25). When a senator's daughter is murdered by a serial killer, the FBI Special Crimes Unit is stumped and calls in an unorthodox crime fighting group not overseen by the government. It's operative is a woman named Dani Justice who knows more than she's telling the Special Crimes Unit.

If you're a dog lover, try "The Darkest Evening of the Year," by Dean Koontz (Bantam, $27), a novel about Anna Redwing who'll do anything to save a golden retriever.

If Wisconsin mystery is your passion, dig into "Means to an End," by Hudson, Wis., author Michael HachEy (Avalon, $21.95).

It's Hachey's second outing after publishing "A Matter of Motive" in which he introduced Dexter Loomis, an unconventional law officer stationed in a small Wisconsin town.

"Means to an End" is a sequel to the first novel. Loomis is now "interim police chief of Higgins Point, a river town, when a car crash turns out to be a murder.

Loomis calls in his love interest Ann Summer and together they go to work on the case.

Here's Hachey's description of the Indian Casino which could be the one in Turtle Lake, not far from Hachey's Hudson:

The Two Bears Casino itself ... was modern steel-and-block construction, a rustic-looking timber-lodge like facade had been tacked on.

And two bears, representing the constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, towered above the entrance.

But once Donald had gotten inside and walked past the Council Feast Buffet and the Wigwam Room, featuring Chubby Checker appearing tonight, that was pretty much it for the Native American decor."

Perfectly tacky, eh?

Dave Wood is a past vice-president of the National Book Critics Circle and former book review editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

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