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Gerald Hammond, . . Severn, $25.99 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-7278-5807-8

Veteran Scottish author Hammond (A Running Jump, etc.) offers an entertaining, lighthearted caper in which an American woman and a Scottish landowner team up to gain vengeance on a scoundrel. A chance meeting brings together historian Jeremy Carpenter and footloose, somewhat dowdy Hazel Tripp. Jeremy barely makes a living through lectures and books to maintain his elderly grandfather in a nursing home and to keep the ancestral home, Tinnisbeck Castle, in the family. Hazel came from America to learn about antiques and was doing fine until the store she worked for was bought up and she was let go without warning. In short order, the couple discover that they each have suffered injury at the hands of wealthy blackguard Gordon McKennerty. Together they concoct an elaborate scheme designed to punish McKennerty economically and embarrass him professionally. Not only greedy and unscrupulous but also exceedingly dangerous, McKennerty makes a wonderful target. The alliance works to transform both Jeremy and Hazel. Hammond hatches an antiques scam worthy of Jonathan Gash's Lovejoy (though Lovejoy would have a fit at Hazel's careful repairs of genuine antiques). Despite a rather thin plot, the author makes the most of it by turning the scam into a rescue operation and introducing tricky complications. Hammond fans should enjoy his new tack and new readers might easily become fans. (May)

Forecast:Hammond's previous mystery novel to be published in the U.S., Illegal Tender (Forecasts, Apr. 23, 2001), was billed as most likely his last book. Everyone should be grateful that the author has yet to retire. Severn deserves kudos for publishing quality titles like this one that are no longer viable for the larger houses.