February Publications

Fans disappointed by Barbara Colley's previous Charlotte LaRue cozy, Death Tidies Up (2003), take heart: Polished Off, the third entry in the series featuring the cleaning-service owner/amateur sleuth, lives up to the promise of her debut, Maid for Murder (2002). The accidental discovery of an urn filled with human bones in a stately Garden District home leads Charlotte into dusting out hidden secrets lurking behind the closed doors of New Orleans's rich and famous. Full of warm Southern charm, this one's a good way to fight the winter doldrums. (Kensington, $22 256p ISBN 1-57566-877-7)

Cornell Woolrich's considerable skill as a noir writer isn't displayed to best advantage in Night and Fear, a collection of 14 previously uncollected short stories, edited and with an introduction by Francis M. Nevins. There are intriguing premises—an off-duty detective attends a matinee with his girlfriend only to realize that the man who has sat down next to her is a wanted killer ("Double Feature"); a man in a diner notices another's curious furtive examination of sugar bowls ("The Heavy Sugar")—but too often these tales rely on coincidental gimmicks such as just-in-time rescues by a father or boyfriend in place of Woolrich's usual potent mix of suspense, hints of the supernatural and a pervasive atmosphere of despair. This is a book for completists, not newcomers. (Carroll & Graf/Penzler, $26 416p ISBN 0-7867-1291-0)