Reviews

TALE BY FIREFIGHTER RUNS HOT AND COLD

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It's been said that firefighters come alive when they're battling a blaze. Earl Emerson's novel, "Vertical Burn," comes alive when he's describing one.

That shouldn't surprise: Emerson's not only a novelist, he's a lieutenant in the Seattle Fire Department. He's at his best when he's depicting the rush of suiting up or how moisture in the grass sizzles when a fireman just out of a blaze puts a helmet down.

Unfortunately, in between the fires that hold up "Vertical Burn," the excitement ebbs, leaving too much time to ponder one unacceptable plot twist after another.


COMPELLING TALE OF DEEP EMOTIONS FLOWS THROUGH 'NILE'

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The explorers who spent the 18th and 19th centuries searching for the source of the river Nile battled great obstacles, but they had an advantage: They knew the end justified their search for the beginning.

Explorers of new fiction have no such knowledge, particularly when the author is new as well. So readers of "The True Sources of the Nile," the deep and flowing first novel by Sarah Stone, can be excused if they wonder early on if their effort will be rewarded.


LEONARD'S 'BLUES' SINGS WITH HIS CLASSIC STYLE

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One thing that's always been true about Elmore Leonard is that he takes his world with him. With "Tishomingo Blues," his 37th novel, Leonard's traveling road show pulls into Tunica, Miss.

Ten years ago, that would have seemed an odd setting for Leonard, whose modern novels have never strayed too far from the street. But when you consider that Leonard began No. 36, "Pagan Babies," in Rwanda, maybe it's not that far after all.


DREAMING AND SCHEMING WITH THE SILICONE VALLEY BOYS

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When Andy Caspar, the good guy in Po Bronson's second novel, has maxed out his credit cards but still needs cash to bring his revolutionary computer ideas to market, he finds it in his closet.

For years he's been buying from the L.L. Bean catalog, and he's just remembered that Bean wear comes with a lifetime money-back guarantee. Sweaters, shirts, every pair of pants he owns and, bingo, he's got three months' rent.


A NEO-TAKE ON THE OLD WEST

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It's tough to imagine a cookbook that brings together such dishes as masoor dal, buffalo gourd mash, and scrambled eggs and brains.

But Ric Lynden Hardman has done it in "Sunshine Rider" by making the recipes just one ingredient in his novel, which is also a happily-ever-after saga from the Old West, a satire on modern times, a treatise on vegetarianism, and a coming-of-age yarn.


FLASHES AND FLAWS FROM ELMORE LEONARD

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Elmore Leonard has long had an irresistible formula for his grit-and-polish crime novels: flawed heroes, strong women, rich or powerful people who abuse their privilege, reasonably clever mob bosses, and not-so-swift crooks - all entangled in stories that are set (at least in part) in Detroit or South Florida, and that undergo plot twists that are surprising yet plausible.


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