OUT OF THE RUINS

Sally S. Wright, Author . Multnomah $10.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-59052-031-4

In her fourth Ben Reese mystery, Edgar nominee Wright takes Ben away from England and Scotland, the settings for the last two books, and deposits him on unspoiled Cumberland Island off the coast of Georgia. It's 1960, and Cumberland faces an uncertain future as developers and park service scouts try to convince key families to sell their property. Ben stumbles on the murder of a bedridden MS patient—a murder that initially looks like a natural death by pneumonia. But Ben (who learned all about biological agents in the third book, Pursuit and Persuasion) is suspicious, since the victim left behind a surprising will deeding the island to her niece rather than her avaricious daughter. As Ben sifts through numerous red herrings, Wright tackles strong ethical issues such as euthanasia, ecological responsibility and vengeance, offering a religious message that's wonderfully subtle and thoughtful. She also reveals something more of Ben's character; we discover what he did in WWII that still gives him nightmares, and learn of the existence of a wartime nemesis whom Ben believes should be brought to justice. Wright's writing style can be abrupt, particularly when things get exciting. She leans heavily on choppy sentences and tends to begin far too many of them with conjunctions. However, this otherwise impeccable mystery manages to take conventional plot devices—an isolated island, a startling will, a generations-old family feud—and make them fresh. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 12/23/2002
Release date: 01/01/2003
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