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Picks and Pans Review: Murder Book

updated 11/03/1997 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/03/1997 AT 01:00 AM EST

Richard Rayner

Page-Turner of the Week

BILLY MCGRATH HAS SEEN A LIFETIME of death as an LAPD homicide detective, but his latest case shows signs of turning into a real killer. After all, it's not every day that a major gangsta like Ricky Lee Richards is ready to pay you a cool million—to finger his mother's murderer so that he can mete out his own brand of street justice.

Earlier in his career, McGrath would have reflexively played it by the book. But now, deep in the throes of a midlife crisis, the idea of scoring big at the same time as possibly settling a festering personal score is sounding pretty sirenlike.

In the edgy, bullet-hard tale that ensues, Rayner evinces his special feel for the dark alleys of the psyche; while a student at Cambridge, he dabbled in theft and forgery. Despite occasional stumbles here, such as a tendency toward unnecessary, if eloquent, exposition, you'll definitely want to book him. (Houghton Mifflin, $25)

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