Picks and Pans Review: Places in the Dark

updated 07/31/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/31/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Thomas H. Cook

Beach book of the week

Is golden-haired, green-eyed Dora March just dangerously attractive—or, literally, a femme fatale? That's the question assistant district attorney Cal Chase must confront in Depression-era Port Alma, Maine, after the fragile beauty flees the fog-shrouded coastal town. She departed as mysteriously as she arrived, leaving a brutally murdered man—Chase's brother Billy—in her wake.

Have no fear that we've spilled the baked beans here. This time out, veteran suspense craftsman Cook (author of 1997's Edgar Award-winning The Chatham School Affair) concocts twists that would be the main event in lesser mysteries. But he uses them as mere springboards for even more daring plot flips. With well-practiced ease, he glides between crimes, the past and the present, while also managing to work in a wealth of evocative detail. Yet this crackling tale is never in danger of turning into a 1930s period piece.

With its passionate characters, compelling family-driven narrative and surprising conclusion, Places presents irrefutable evidence that it sometimes pays not to be afraid of the dark. (Bantam, $23.95)

Bottom Line: Mystery woman sparks vintage suspense

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