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Originally published Monday, August 4, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Good to the bone crime fiction from Pacific Northwest writers

A roundup of mysteries from Pacific Northwest crime writers

Special to The Seattle Times

Author appearances

Aaron Elkins, Gabriella Herkert

• Aaron Elkins will read from and sign "Uneasy Relations" at 3 p.m. Aug. 17 at the Eagle Harbor Book Co.,

157 Winslow Way E., Bainbridge Island; free (206-842-5332; www.eagleharborbooks.com).

• Gabriella Herkert will

sign "Doggone" at noon Saturday at Seattle Mystery Bookshop, 117 Cherry St., Seattle; free (206-587-5737; www.seattlemystery.com).

Summer has brought, among other good things, a bumper crop of mysteries from Pacific Northwest crime writers. Settle by the pond, pool, lake or ocean with a tall cool glass of whatever and one of these diverting tales — you won't need to come up for air until September.

The intriguing, richly drawn historical mystery "Cézanne's Quarry" (Pegasus, 368 pp., $25) is the fiction debut of Barbara Corrado Pope. By day a historian and director of Women's Studies at the University of Oregon, Pope handily blends genuine figures and events into her fictional bouillabaisse of art, science and mystery.

We're in the sun-kissed south of France in 1885, and the question is: Who killed charismatic Solange Vernet and left her body in a quarry? Was it her lover, a somewhat disreputable student of Mr. Darwin's new and controversial ideas? Was it the grumpy artist Paul Cézanne, infatuated with the lovely Solange? Or was it someone else?

Some series characters tread the same territory, adventure after adventure. Others don't. Take globe-trotting Gideon Oliver, a forensic pathologist known as the Bone Detective. (Clearly, he exists so Sequim author Aaron Elkins has an excuse to conduct "research" in exotic places. Not that I'm jealous.)

In "Uneasy Relations" (Berkley, 278 pp., $23.95) Oliver is in Gibraltar, attending a conference on recently found Neanderthal skeletons. But there's contemporary mayhem, too: a pair of recent murders. As usual, Oliver manages to stay perennially sunny despite his grisly work.

"Doggone" (Signet, $6.99 paperback original) is the second in Everett-area author Gabriella Herkert's charming "Animal Instinct" series starring Seattle-based legal investigator Sara Townley. (Herkert is herself a recovering attorney.)

Townley heads to San Diego to take on a case of stolen identity. Along the way, the recently wedded investigator copes with her husband's family (some of them the in-laws from hell) and encounters a black Labrador mix that talks and sings, sort of.

From Bainbridge Island writer Anthony Flacco comes "The Hidden Man" (Ballantine, 304 pp., $14 paperback original). This historical thriller has a terrific setting: the San Francisco World's Fair, held in 1915 as the city was still recovering from its devastating earthquake.

Homicide cop Randall Blackburn and his son Shane Nightingale (the stars of Flacco's "The Last Nightingale") desperately track a madman stalking one of the fair's main attractions, a famous hypnotist. Flacco, an accomplished screenwriter, knows a thing or two about providing vivid detail and ratcheting up the suspense.

From down Oregon way comes "Cold Case" (Mira, 344 pp., $24.95), the latest in Eugene resident Kate Wilhelm's series about amiable but razor-sharp attorney Barbara Holloway. An ambitious politician has been murdered. He had a seamy, decades-old connection with an old friend — as college students, the two were suspects in the never-solved murder of a teenage girl.

The friend, now a controversial author, quickly surfaces as the cops' prime suspect in the present-day crime. Even Holloway, his attorney, is inclined to suspect him at first — but then begins to think otherwise.

Two reliable and prolific Seattle women are among those with new books out. Mary Daheim, who still hasn't met a pun she doesn't like, adds to her very funny "Bed-and-breakfast" series of cozy mysteries with "Vi Agra Falls" (Morrow, 326 pp., $23.95). B&B owner Judith McMonagle Flynn has to deal with a number of issues: unwelcome family, threats of condominiums wrecking her neighborhood's charm, and, oh yeah, dead bodies.

In a grimmer vein, "Damage Control" (Morrow, 384 pp., $25.95) is the latest from J.A. Jance. It expands her popular series starring Joanna Brady, the sheriff of rural Cochise County, Ariz. The complex plot finds Brady investigating, among many other developments, a car crash in mountainous terrain that appears to be an elderly couple's double suicide.

And finally: Mike Doogan is a third-generation Alaskan, a longtime political columnist for the Anchorage Daily News and now a state legislator (for his sins). But he's also a prolific writer of both fiction and nonfiction, and "Skeleton Lake" (Putnam's, 303 pp., $25.95) is his third mystery about private eye Nik Kane, an appealing hero who is damaged in interestingly complex ways.

Recovering from serious injuries, he opens a decades-old cold case: the killing of an undercover cop, which had been Kane's first assignment as a young police detective. In vivid flashbacks, Kane mulls his eventful past as he digs into the still unsolved case.

Adam Woog reviews mysteries and crime fiction for The Seattle Times.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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