Pop thrills - Page 2

A romp through this year's bumper crop of trash lit

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But Don't Blink bored me. It's about a reporter (good) who sees a mob killing (cool) and then gets in trouble (predictable). The protag is decent and believable, but the plot goes on and on and gets nowhere. Blink.

LET THE DEVIL SLEEP

By John Verdon

Crown

449 pp, hardcover $25

Verdon's series hero, retired cop Dave Gurney, continues to live in his gruesome Green Acres in upstate New York, where his wife wants a quiet country life and he keeps tangling with psychokillers. I really liked the first two, Think of a Number and Shut Your Eyes Tight, and this one's fine, although not as stone-cold sick-ass wacked-out crazy as the past two.

Here, Gurney looks into a cold case and everyone thinks he's crazy except that the killer, who supposedly isn't around, keeps doing things like shooting deadly hunting arrows into his garden. Between the murderer and the pain of his tormented marriage, there's enough to keep you turning the pages. But it's at best a B-plus.

ROBERT B. PARKER'S LULLABY

By Ace Atkins

G.P. Putnam's Sons

320pp, hardcover $26.95

All of the knockoffs suck. Tom Clancy's Ops Center? Worthless. The Jason Bourne sequels? Robert Ludlum's ghost is puking. You don't do that shit; it doesn't work. And another writer trying to take on the Late Great Robert B. Parker and Spenser? Not a prayer. Give it up.

Except that Ace Atkins actually makes it work. And he does it not by becoming Parker but by staying true to the characters and developing just enough of his own voice that it's not just a weak parody. You've got Spenser and Hawk and Vinnie and Susan Silverman and a 14-year-old terrified girl who hired the detective for a box of donuts and leads him into a fierce FBI-Boston mob frameup gig that sparkles like Parker of old.

For real. I'm amazed.