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STRIP By Thomas Perry, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 352 pages, $32.50

Thomas Perry built a devoted fan base with his series featuring Mohawk Jane Whitefield, who helped people disappear. He sent her off to rest several years ago, and has published wonderful stories with unique twists since. Strip, his latest, is full of marvellous characters and clips along at an irresistible pace.

Claudiu (Manco) Kapak is an aging tough guy who owns a pair of L.A. strip clubs. But his major income is from laundering drug money for a local gangster. When Manco is robbed at the night depository of his bank, he lets it be known that he wants the robber. Informers finger one Joe Carver, and Manco puts his thugs on Carver's trail.

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Carver has indeed been tossing around cash, but it's his, not Manco's. The real robber, petty criminal Jefferson Davis Falkins, is happily holed up with his girlfriend, Lila. But a few weeks of drinking champagne has seriously reduced his stash. Falkins, not the sharpest blade in the drawer, decides to hit Manco again.

But with Perry, nothing works out the way you expect. Falkins falls in with a crazy woman named Carrie, who takes him to a whole other level of mayhem. In the meantime, Manco's case is handed over to Nick Slosser of the LAPD, a bigamous detective who needs cash to send the kids from his two marriages to college. And that's all before anyone gets killed.



61 HOURS By Lee Child, Delacorte, 383 pages, $34

It is hard to imagine that Lee Child could outdo Gone Tomorrow, his previous Jack Reacher novel. But 61 Hours does. As always, Child opens with a bang, in this case a lawyer whose path crosses a busload of seniors caught in a blizzard. Along with the seniors is Reacher, stranded in Bolton, S.D., and forced into a confrontation that lasts 61 hours, two-and-a-half days the citizens of Bolton - and Reacher - won't soon forget. This is the best Reacher yet.



A CURTAIN FALLS By Stefanie Pintoff, Minotaur, 390 pages, $29.99

Stefanie Pintoff's debut, In the Shadow of Gotham, won two major first novel awards. This sequel is even better. It's the early 20th century. Former New York police partners Simon Ziele and Declan Mulvaney have taken very different paths. Ziele relocated to rural Dobson, where he can solve crime without facing the violence of the city. Mulvaney, in Gotham, glories in the most violent crimes. But when a showgirl dies onstage, he's stumped and calls on his old partner for help. Pintoff seems to have an encyclopedic knowledge of early criminal investigation, and fits it all into an excellent plot.



CHILDREN IN THE MORNING By Anne Emery, ECW, 306 pages, $26.95

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This sixth Monty Collins book by Halifax lawyer Emery is the best of the series. It has a solid plot, good characters and a very strange child who has visions. Monty's client is Beau Delaney, a showboating lawyer whose exploits are about to become a feature film. When Beau is accused of murdering his wife, it's up to Monty to prove the father of 10 didn't do it. The creepy kid is Monty's daughter, Normie, whose visions seem to implicate Beau. What she sees isn't admissible in court, but it perhaps Beau isn't quite guiltless.



LETHAL RAGE By Brent Pilkey, ECW, 248 pages, $26.95

This debut by veteran Toronto police officer Brent Pilkey is loaded with insider info and a cop's-eye view of the city. Pilkey sets Jack Warren, a young, slightly naive cop, on the mean streets of 51 Division, in Toronto's notorious Regent Park area, where a local crack dealer decides to make himself lord of the trade. Pilkey spent 15 years in 51 Division and knows the turf. His dialogue is a bit stiff, but devotees of urban cop tales will eat this up.

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