cover image DEEP POCKETS


Linda Barnes, . . St. Martin's Minotaur, $24.95 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-312-28271-4

In her 10th robust Carlotta Carlyle mystery (after 2002's The Big Dig ), Barnes weaves an intricate web with a pleasingly poisonous spider at its center. African-American Harvard professor Wilson Chaney asks Boston PI Carlotta for help because someone is blackmailing him over his affair with Delani Brinkman, a seductive Harvard rowing star. When Delani turns up dead in a boathouse on the Charles, incinerated on a gasoline-soaked futon, a note left by the victim suggests suicide. But Brinkman herself remains quite the puzzle—a loner who slept with her kayak in her room, then abandoned her dorm to camp in the university boathouse: "Her mother was an American Indian.... Her father was Swiss, but she didn't learn that until much later. She had no brothers and sisters. She never went hungry, but there wasn't much kindness in her life." When Delani's ex-con boyfriend is killed by a hit-run driver on a dark city street, suspicion points back to the urbane Professor Chaney—or does it? Almost every character carries a secret, including Carlotta, who's gingerly resuming her romance with a charming Mafioso. If a couple of red herrings aren't fully explained, Barnes makes superb use of town-gown tensions and the contrasting worlds of Harvard bureaucrats, blue-collar cons, the Brattle Street swells and more. The twists and turns in this nail-biter are at once startling without ever becoming absurd. 3-city author tour. (Mar. 8)