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Murder in Hell's Kitchen, Lee Harris, Fawcett, $6.99.

Murder in Hell's Kitchen by Lee Harris

This is one of the least pretentious books I have ever read. It is what it is - a straight ahead police procedural, no embellishments. Using the same clear and concise prose she's used to advantage throughout her Christine Bennett series, Harris employs her slightly old fashioned, almost ladylike storytelling style to tell a modern story about a modern police department. She's obviously done her research - she uses some terms I haven't heard in other books or even on NYPD Blue.

Her central character, Detective Jane Bauer, has just moved to the cold case special unit. Working with two partners - one of whom drives her nuts - they delve into an apparently senseless murder case, which, as they start to peel away layers, turns out to be much, much more. The police work is solid and well detailed, and Harris has always been excellent at telling a story where the central conflict seems unsolvable and then cracking it. This book, subtitled "A Manhattan Mystery", is also full of daily details of life in the city. Obviously Harris loves New York, and it shows on nearly every page of this book.

While I think the book is lacking in a little bit of sparkle - Jane Bauer could use some more interesting character traits - Harris, as is typical for her, is such a storytelling pro that the ending is sensational. It makes reading the rest of the book completely worthwhile. She also gives Jane some interesting personal dilemmas - she's in love with a married man, she has a child she put up for adoption turn up out of the blue - that obviously are being set up for more exploration in further novels. I, for one, wouldn't mind getting to know Jane Bauer better.


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