Gene Lyons
May 02, 1997 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Time was, a man invested in a trench coat, a revolver, and a bottle of cheap bourbon, rented a run-down office, and set up shop as a private eye. Today, women PIs — like Carlotta Carlyle of Linda Barnes’ Cold Case — seem to be getting all the work. The mystery here concerns the reappearance, some 24 years after her apparent suicide, of a brilliant young novelist. The manuscript of a second novel by the deceased author emerges, only to be followed by a strange series of homicides, which our heroine shrewdly unravels, of course. If you don’t mind a touch of heavy-handed feminist rhetoric, the novel’s redheaded, hazel-eyed, in-your-face sleuth proves a witty and observant narrator of a satisfyingly complex tale. B+

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