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Check It Out

Courier Article by David Locker
Sunday, December 26, 1999

Holidays Can Be Murder, But Reading Is a Joy

During the busy holiday season it is difficult to find time for long books. For short, fast reading, mysteries are just right. One of the best things about them is that they allow you to travel to other places.

Recently I was in Chicago with my family, and we walked along Michigan Avenue. Wherever we turned, we saw from the Chicago River to the Wrigley Building-familiar settings for mysteries by writers such as Sara Paretsky, Mignon G. Eberhart, and others.

Today's suggestions will take you to other towns, and all of these mysteries are available through your public library.

Orion Rising by Terece Faherty (St. Martin's, 1999).

This is a favorite series of mine, written by an Indianapolis author. It features Owen Keane, an amateur detective and failed seminarian with a Southern Indiana connection-he studied at St. Meinrad in Spencer County. In this book, Owen and his best friend, Harry Oldham return to their alma mater, Boston College, to investigate the murder of a former classmate. This slaying is connected to an unsolved rape and killing of a nurse, which occurred right outside their dorm during their freshman year. Being back in Boston causes Owen to drift back and forth between the past and the present, and in the process, we pick up details about his relationship with the late Mary Fitzgerald, the girl Harry married after Owen left her behind to enter the seminary. If you are not familiar with the series, this latest entry would be as good a place as any to start.

The Tentmaker by Michelle Blake (Putnam's, 1999).

We mystery readers are always looking for a good new series, and I think I've found one here. It features Lily Connor, an interim Episcopalian priest of a venerable Boston congregation. Since nursing her father through his final illness, she is experiencing a crisis of faith and is in need of some male companionship. The church she is assigned to is beset with problems. Its pastor died under a cloud, and his relationship with a troubled boy has raised questions. Lily becomes convinced that the priest's death was the result of foul play. She puts her life in danger as she bravely unravels the puzzle.

The Lost Bird by Margaret Coel (Berkley, 1999).

Another of my favorite series has for its sleuth the Jesuit Father John O'Malley, a recovering alcoholic who has been exiled to the Wind River Indian Reservation in the middle of Wyoming. His "Watson" is Vicky Holden, an Arapaho attorney. Their relationship, though Platonic, has become alarmingly romantic. To avoid temptation, they investigate this case separately but come up with a common solution, connecting the murder of O'Malley's new assistant to a Hollywood starlet's quest to find her Arapaho parents. You needn't have read previous books in the series to enjoy this one.

A Highland Christmas by M. C. Beaton (Mysterious Press).

You Scrooges out there may find yourselves humming carols after reading this heartwarming little tale. There is no murder for Scottish Police Constable Hamish Macbeth to solve this Christmas, but a grouchy lady has lost her cat, a neighboring town has lost its Christmas lights, and a young schoolteacher needs wooing. Hamish's beat is in a region of Scotland where it is considered pagan to celebrate Christmas, so he takes it upon himself to bring the spirit of Santa Claus to a lonely woman in fear of her separated husband and to a child in nedd of the love she isn't getting from her severe parents. This is my first Hamish Macbeth mystery, and I plan to read many more.

David Locker is a librarian with the Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library. The opinions expressed in this column are personal and do not reflect policies or official recommendations of EVPL.