cover image Birth Marks

Birth Marks

Sarah Dunant. Doubleday Books, $17 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-385-42318-2

The tough-as-nails young female sleuth who debuts here is London-based private eye Hannah Wolfe. Hired by an aging former dancer to find a lithe and pretty ballet prodigy who has gone missing, Hannah learns that young Carolyn Hamilton, whose nerves required Valium and whose tender ankles needed medication, has left a trail of impersonal postcards and some hefty credit-card debts. Hannah has barely begun to dig when Carolyn's body--which reveals that she was eight months pregnant--turns up in the Thames. The trail back to her drowning leads across the English Channel to a wealthy family and an old man close to death with no apparent heirs. A refreshing Londoner with an appealing softness under her slick, self-effacing surface, Hannah skirts cheap gumshoe patter. Everywhere she turns she sees youngsters, parents and those who want badly to become parents, and all of seem germane to her nicely resolved case and her awareness that the snooze button on her own biological clock isn't working as it used to. Dunant also wrote Snow Storms in a Hot Climate. (Oct.)