James W. Hall, . . St. Martin's Minotaur, $24.95 (341pp) ISBN 978-0-312-27180-0

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FORESTS OF THE NIGHT James W. Hall . St. Martin's Minotaur , $24.95 (352p) ISBN 0-312-27180-8

Police detective Charlotte Monroe arrives home in Coral Gables, Fla., one evening to find her lawyer husband, Parker, and their teenage daughter, Gracey, chatting amiably with a man she's never met, Jacob Bright Sky Panther, the Cherokee nephew of one of Parker's old friends. The always observant Charlotte recognizes Panther's face—he's number eight on the FBI's Most Wanted list. Before the SWAT team can arrive, Panther has fled with Gracey in tow, and this fast-paced, entertaining thriller has kicked into high gear, taking the reader to the mountains of North Carolina and deep into the pasts of Panther, Parker and the entire Cherokee Nation. The plot linking these characters is, predictably, convoluted and over the top, but it's compelling, with action scenes that bristle with visceral intensity. But Hall's real strength is characterization. Charlotte is a fascinating protagonist with an unusually valuable gift—an unparalleled ability to interpret facial expressions—but her role is more that of concerned parent and troubled wife (one hopes her investigative prowess will be a future novel's focus). Nearly everyone has real depth, and the author's appreciation for history and its reverberations adds further complexity. Agent, Richard Pine. (Jan. 19)

Forecast: Blurbs from Russell Banks and Reynolds Price will help attract readers of literary fiction who usually avoid genre titles. Author tour.