Happily ever after isn't what it used to be. "Which is precisely the point—and a large part of the charm—of these devilish retellings of classic fairy tales by two dozen of our most cunning mystery writers.
Although some of the authors hew pretty closely to the plot of the originals—for instance, Gillian Roberts's spin on Cinderella, (as seen by one of her stepsisters)—others use them simply as a source of inspiration. In an excellent batch, standouts include "Harvest Home," Elizabeth Eng-strom's creepy take on "Hansel and Gretel," and Jon L. Breen's "Clever Hans," a thoroughly modern gloss on the title character's misadventures. With a satisfying mix of plot twists, wit and the occasional touch of pathos, Once Upon a Crime offers a hearty helping of reading treats. Just not before bedtime. (Berkley, $22.95)
Bottom Line: Grimm keeper
By Grace Slick with Andrea Cagan
When Grace Slick steered the Jefferson Airplane onto the pop charts in 1967 with "White Rabbit," her druggy salute to Alice in Wonderland, she became the poster girl for free love and voluminous drugs. And Slick, now 58, definitely lived up to her reputation, which may account for why this candid, sporadically entertaining memoir feels so disjointed. Yet it is not without charm and insight. "I've managed to live my entire life in a kind of splendid Disney denial," Slick admits. And she understands why, too: "Bucks grease the hassles; a good attitude drives the whole car."
When Slick describes the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival or a 1969 meeting with a business-savvy, suit-and-tied Mick Jagger, she provides fascinating backstage glimpses into the halcyon days of hippiedom. Not to mention the nights, as Slick chronicles her love affairs with some of the icons of the era—including Jim Morrison, whom she sought out like a groupie during a Doors-Airplane European tour in 1968. Being with the otherworldly Morrison, she says, was "like making love to a floating art form with eyes."
She seems more grounded as the mother of 27-year-old daughter China Kantner, whom she admires for being "able to do what I generally couldn't: express sober rage." Yet when Slick goes on to say that her preferred way of dying would be to explode, it is clear that Spacey Gracey is still capable of anything. (Warner, $25)
Bottom Line: Bumpy memoir from the original frequent flier
By Nicholas Evans
Three years after he galloped to the top of the bestseller lists with The Horse Whisperer
, Nicholas Evans heads back to Montana for another epic tale about the redemptive powers of love and the interconnectedness of humans and animals.
But if Robert Red-ford intends to turn this one into a movie, he can stow the soft-focus lenses. This time out, Evans portrays an American West that is as brutal as it is beautiful. The story revolves around the ongoing reintroduction of wolves to the wild, a move championed by environmentalists, but bitterly opposed by the ranchers who will have to share the land with them. Caught in the middle are wolf biologist Helen Ross and cattle heir Luke Calder.
Evans's prose drags at times, and he spares no gore in describing the savageness of both men and wolves. But thanks to sharp characters and a tension-loaded plotline, The Loop
ropes a reader in. (Delacorte, $25.95)
Bottom Line: Gripping, big drama in Big Sky country
By John Lescroart
Beach book of the week
Beloved San Francisco fishmonger "Salmon" Sal Russo lies dead in his dingy room. He suffered from Alzheimer's disease and an inoperable brain tumor. Found at the scene: empty vials of morphine, a syringe and a Do Not Resuscitate
notice. Suicide? The police arrest his estranged son Graham for "helping" his father to die, a capital crime under California law. For Graham's attorney Dismas Hardy—the protagonist of several successful Lescroart novels—the case leads to a labyrinth of lies, old crimes and tangled relationships inside the federal justice system.
Carefully wrapped in a stylish whodunit, The Mercy Rule
is a morality play about assisted suicide that finds Lescroart in his best form yet. (Delacorte, $24.95)
Bottom Line: A master's take on a troubling social issue
By Star Jones with Daniel Paisner
Watch 10 minutes of Barbara Walters's morning gabfest The View
, and you'll know Star Jones. She's the diva—a woman with, in her words, a "delightfully interesting, vivacious attitude." Read her autobiography, and you won't learn much more about this former Brooklyn senior assistant D.A. turned TV personality. No doubt she's interesting—a churchgoing, Gucci-loving, pro-choice, law-and-order woman who supports affirmative action. But her "vivacious attitude" can be hard to take. "I don't have to prove anything to anybody," she says. Maybe not, but it's a shame there's so little here about what drives her. Readers seeking inspiration may be disappointed—a true winner knows when to be humble. (Bantam, $22.95)
Bottom Line: Puts the "moi" back in memoir
Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer and Dr. Steven Kaplan The outspoken sexpert offers new insight into a vital and magical role—from how not to spoil your kids' kids to communicating with them from afar. (Routledge, $22)
BLUE COLLAR BLUES
Rosalyn McMillan Layoffs lead to murder in a taut drama by the author of One Better
, set amid the assembly lines of a Detroit auto plant. (Warner, $23)
Daniel Menaker In this wry, urbane novel, a Manhattan schoolteacher seeks love and wisdom with the aid of a memorably comic Cuban therapist. (Knopf, $23)
- Pam Lambert,
- Peter Ames Carlin,
- Cynthia Sanz,
- J.D. Reed,
- Erica Sanders.
edited by Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg