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Picks and Pans Review: Close to Shore

updated 06/25/2001 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/25/2001 01:00AM

A True Story of Terror in an Age of Innocence
by Michael Capuzzo

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, consider this: Jaws wasn't pure fiction. In fact, in 1916 there was a series of shark attacks off the coast of New Jersey. The true story, as told by Capuzzo, is as gripping as the novel—but more frightening.

Capuzzo makes a persuasive case that all of New Jersey's attacks that summer were the acts of a single great white shark that had been swept north by the Gulf Stream into alien waters. Once it found itself off Jersey's crowded resort beaches without its accustomed prey, it proceeded to...improvise. Four people were killed. One of the book's greatest strengths is the painstaking research that puts the horror in context, providing a picture of the victims' histories and the cultural tenor of the times.

Combine that with an underwater journey that goes from the open ocean all the way up into a shallow tidal creek and you've got a powerful page-turner that will keep you out of the water for another year. (Broadway, $24.95)

Bottom Line: You'll see fins in your soup

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