A BROTHER TO DRAGONS.
Donald I. Fine.
' 341 pages. $21.95.
After working for the FBI on an undercover operation against the Mafia, Frank DiGenero and his wife, Erin, have been living under assumed names to escape mob retribution. But a car bomb kills Erin and ends a decade of anonymity. Realizing their location could have been found only through an FBI leak, DiGenero vows revenge on the Mafia and the FBI source.
Not trusting the FBI, DiGenero turns to his network, which hasn't been used in more than a decade. He uncovers a plot between the Mafia and the Irish Republican Army. The Mafia would assist the IRA in carrying out terrorism in the United States, which began with the sabotage of an airliner. The IRA would front for mob activity in Britain.
Drawing on his years of working for intelligence agencies, Kent Harrington has written an ingenious "what-if" tale about what happens when a politically motivated terrorist organization links up with a crime syndicate and the only politics is money. The novel is a terrific blend of interesting characters wrapped up in a fast-paced narrative. Carlotta Carlyle is a Boston private eye who moonlights as a cabdriver when money gets tight. But in "Snapshot," Linda Barnes' fifth Carlotta mystery, making ends meet is the least of her worries. A well-heeled woman, Emily Woodrow, has provided Carlotta with a fat retainer on the condition that she accept no other cases and wait for further instructions before proceeding with her investigation.
When Emily disappears shortly after their meeting, Carlotta decides that it's time to go to work. All she knows about Emily is that her young daughter, Rebecca, died of leukemia at a local hospital, and that she is haunted by something suspicious she witnessed on Rebecca's last day -- a mysterious man in white, shoving a mask over the girl's face just before she died. Who was he? Did he kill the child? Or was it only a hallucination?
Like most mystery novels dealing with hospitals, "Snapshot" has more than its share of coldhearted, greedy doctors and helpless patients in jeopardy. Still, Ms. Barnes knows how to hook her readers -- it's hard to stop turning the pages until every puzzle is solved, from Rebecca's death to the more lighthearted matter of the "garbage thief" who is pilfering Carlotta's refuse. A true Boston cabbie, Carlotta always takes you on a fast-paced, rousing ride.
PARALLEL WORLDS: AN
ANTHROPOLOGIST AND A
WRITER ENCOUNTER AFRICA.
and Philip Graham.
318 pages. $22.
While loaded with all of the funny First-World-meets-Third stories we have come to expect from those chronicling vanishing tribes, this account of the authors' yearlong stay with a Beng tribe in Africa's Ivory Coast is unique because its jokes do not come at the "primitive" culture's expense. The Beng, for instance, greet one another with a singsong, theatrical ritual so lengthy that they have often walked 30 feet past each other by the time they are finished. But after milking the ritual for humor, Dr. Gottlieb, an anthropologist, and her husband, Mr. Graham, a fiction writer, go on to illustrate its superiority to the "suspicious, sidelong glances" Americans give one another on the street.
"Parallel Worlds" is sometimes derivative; when the authors observe that Joseph Conrad sketched Africans simplistically, for instance, we observe that African writer Chinua Achebe said it earlier and better. But the authors' honesty about their professional ambitions gives these pages a fresh twist: They may be living in an exotic land of panther dancing, sacred forests and human snakes, but their wheeling-and-dealing ways of coaxing valuable data from savvy tribes would hardly seem out of place on Wall Street, say, or Capitol Hill.