THE DISCOVERY OF JEANNE BARET
By Glynis Ridley (Broadway, 287 pages, $15)
Our fascination with pirates, via Johnny Depp, led to a fresh knowledge of the rare female pirates, mostly Anne Bonny and Mary Read. But the idea of a female sailor in the Royal Navy remains unfathomable, given the logistics of a sailing ship. So Ridley's true story of Jeanne Baret, who disguised herself and became the first woman to circumnavigate the globe, almost defies belief. She did it for love, but her lover, botanist Philibert Commerson, cooperated in the ruse because her brilliant skills as a plant collector and taxonomist supplemented his own. The story, of course, ends badly, but Baret's spirit and resilience against the odds make her among the more compelling characters in the Age of Sail. That Commerson finally named the genus Baretia for her is a nod to her courage, containing as it does plants that resist being easily identified.
Kim Ode, staff writer
THE GIRL WHO DISAPPEARED TWICE
By Andrea Kane (Mira, 400 pages, $24.95)
Never mind that you will probably figure out pretty quickly who did the crime; Andrea Kane's latest novel is filled with suspense and unexpected twists that will keep you turning pages. When family court judge Hope Willis was 6, her twin sister was kidnapped and never seen again. Now Willis' own daughter has been taken, and the judge will leave no clue unexamined to find her. She hires Forensic Instincts, a ragtag but brilliant band of unconventional investigators that includes a former Navy SEAL, a behavioral specialist and a geeky tech guy. The crew, which puts the search on the fast track by cutting a few legal corners, provides much of the book's entertainment with its methods and repartee. It's pretty clear that Kane is setting up Forensic Instincts for sequels, especially when she adds a new member near the end of the book. They are so much fun, I'm looking forward to more.
Judy Romanowich Smith, news designer