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    © St. Petersburg Times, published February 11, 2001

    Here's a handful of easy-reading mysteries to enjoy on a cruise, the ski slopes or just the flinty February Florida sun.

    * * *

    THE END OF EMERALD WOODS, A Wild Onion Ltd. mystery, by David J. Walker (St. Martin's Minotaur, $23.95).

    Author Walker is a former priest who sets his mysteries in Chicago where he now practices law. His sleuths are husband and wife P.I./lawyer team Kristin and Dugan, who take on the case of a single mother who's fighting City Hall. Eudora Ragsdale clawed her way out of the slums and moved her twin daughters to Miracle City where she found a cause to take up some of her sizable energies. She becomes treasurer for CREW, an organization formed to prevent Emerald Woods from becoming yet another shopping mall. Powerful millionaires who would make a mint on the project are pitted against Eudora's group -- then, she's accused of embezzling CREW funds. Incidents escalate in this human-interest mystery.

    * * *

    ON NIGHT'S SHORE, by Randall Silvis (St. Martin's Minotaur, $24.95).

    Randall Silvis offers an elegant spine-tingler set in gas-lit 1840s New York. Deadbeat Augie Dubbins is surviving in the streets when he sees a young woman throw her baby into the Hudson River then plunges to her death after it. In searching for jewelry she might have tossed in as well, Augie discovers yet another young woman's corpse. Enter Edgar Allan Poe, the journalist covering the tragic yet public-grabbing events. Augie and Edgar set out to solve the deaths and discover webs of intrigue, lust and greed in the Old Time Big Apple.

    * * *

    HAIR RAISER, by Nancy J. Cohen (Kensington Publishing, $20).

    You don't have to be Jewish to enjoy Florida beauty salon owner Marla Shore's crime adventures, but it does help to know a few idioms that are sprinkled throughout this mystery. Marla has volunteered to help raise funds for Ocean Guard, a trust preserving mangrove areas of the beach. Her job is to get prominent chefs together for a Taste of the World benefit where ticket sales would keep the fund going. But the chefs keep bowing out due to "accidents" like having Bananas Foster blow up in their face or being forced to shut down because of tainted seafood. The Ocean Guard Committee starts getting culled, beginning with the murder of a shyster lawyer. Along with her heartthrob, Detective Dalton Vail, Marla begins an investigation that might implicate her "girl-who-has-everything" cousin, Cynthia.

    * * *

    THE DOCTOR MAKES A DOLLHOUSE CALL, by Robin Hathaway (St. Martin's, $5.99).

    A classic cozy where two elderly sisters' (Emily and Judith) most prized possession is a dollhouse that replicates the Victorian home of their idyllic childhood. One day, Emily finds that the dinner table in the dollhouse is in total chaos, and the doll representing their niece, Pamela, is face-down in the pudding. Then the real Pamela is found dead at the dinner table. The family physician helps solve the case whose roots go back to happy childhood.

    * * *

    HIGH SEAS MURDER, by Shelley Freydont (Kensington Publishing, $20).

    Retired dancer Linda Haggerty thinks she's gotten a dream job on an all-expenses-paid cruise gig where she has to stage a performance and "meet and greet" celebrities on board. Then the bodies pile up. Cruise lovers will enjoy this look behind the cabaret curtains.

    - Kiki Olson is a writer who lives in London.

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