"W is for Wasted"

By Sue Grafton. (Penguin Group, 496 pages, $28.95)

Private investigator Kinsey Millhone is between cases when two dead men turn her life in an unexpected direction. One is an investigator with whom Kinsey was acquainted, the other an unknown homeless man found dead on the beach with Kinsey’s phone number in his pocket. Determined to identify the homeless man, she is drawn into the world of those who live on the streets and carried down a path to self-discovery. Haven’t read any of Grafton’s previous 22 novels featuring Kinsey? Start now. This is a solid mystery that stands well on its own. Of course the men end up connected, but how did they die — and, more important, why? Have you read the first few of the alphabet novels? This is the best of the lot. Read them all? Then you have probably already read this one and agree that it’s great to see Kinsey’s character gaining depth and growing.

Judy Romanowich Smith, freelance writer


"Spider Woman’s Daughter"

By Anne Hillerman. (Harper Collins, 320 pages, $25.99)

Anne Hillerman is putting her own stamp on the mystery series begun by her late father, Tony Hillerman, with a new case involving his now-retired Inspector Joe Leaphorn and Sgt. Jim Chee. When the old master, Leaphorn, is sidelined in a violent attack, it’s up to Chee to find the perpetrator. His biggest asset in solving the crime is his new wife, Bernie Manuelito, a Navajo police officer who, as a witness, is officially off the case. The two must put their emotions for their wounded mentor aside as they crisscross the Southwest, following disparate leads that involve people trading on the cultural history of the Dineh people. Like the fabled Spider Woman of the title, it is Manuelito who weaves those threads together into a satisfying conclusion. Hillerman proves a bit of a Spider Woman herself. By bringing Manuelito to prominence, she brings new life to a well-worn but beloved series. Her knowledge of the area shows in the detailed and evocative descriptions of the vistas and the lifestyles in the Southwest.

Kathe Connair, copy editor