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Troubled economic times hit Shopaholic's world

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The Shopaholic series, by Britain's Sophie Kinsella, rolls merrily along with Mini Shopaholic (Dial Press, 421 pages, $17).

Becky Bloomwood is now married to her dream man, the wealthy and handsome Luke Brandon, and their two-year-old girl is adorable ... except for one thing. She, like her mother, appears to be obsessed with shopping.

Despite its title, the book isn't really about the little girl. Becky and Luke are the focus, as they struggle with a sinking economy that threatens to put an end to their search for the perfect home, not to mention putting Luke's company in financial trouble.

It's a very funny novel -- Becky is a charming creation -- but it's got serious undertones. A Shopaholic novel for these troubled economic times.

-- -- --

Another very funny novel is The Wilt Inheritance (Arrow, 328 pages, $12), by Tom Sharpe, Britain's veteran writer of comic fiction. Henry Wilt, the put-upon college professor who's starred in a handful of previous novels, is in a tricky predicament.

His domineering wife, Eva, has arranged for him to spend the summer break tutoring the dim son of a pair of wealthy half-wits. To make matters worse, Wilt will be forced to live on his clients' estate with his wife and his extraordinarily mean-spirited quadruplet daughters.

Matters take an even sharper turn toward the absurd than even Henry had anticipated, and soon he's mired in a mind-numbing situation involving an amorous client, a possibly homicidal dolt, and a dead body that just won't stay put.

This is one of those books where the laughs start gently and then, as the story gets more and more twisted, turn into side-splitting guffaws.

-- -- --

Vampires, you've probably noticed lately, are getting pretty popular. Lots of books being written about them, mostly pretty awful. A good one is Blood Oath (Jove, 486 pages, $13) by Christopher Farnsworth.

It's the first in a series of novels about Nathaniel Cade, a 140-year-old vampire bound by a blood oath to the office of the U.S. president.

Farnsworth, who lives in Los Angeles, has crafted a clever story in which Cade, who's been defending the U.S. against strange invaders for more than a century, is partnered up with a young White House staffer, Zach Barrows, who's assigned to be Cade's new handler.

The author combines traditional political-thriller elements (a corrupt vice-president, a secret government conspiracy) with vampire mythology and, just for the fun of it, throws in some Frankenstein stuff too. It's clever and exceeding well written.

-- -- --

To capitalize on the publicity around Carte Blanche, the new James Bond novel written by noted American author Jeffery Deaver, Pocket Books is re-releasing some of Deaver's older titles. Shallow Graves (337 pages, $13) from 1992 introduces John Pellam, a Hollywood location scout whose friend dies in a small town in upstate New York. Local officials write it off as an accidental suicide, but Pellam doesn't buy it, and puts his own life on the line to catch the killer.

Bloody River Blues (351 pages, $13, 1993) is set in Missouri, where Pellam is almost caught in the middle of a homicide. Everybody thinks he knows more than he's saying (like, for example, the identity of the killer), and eventually, to save his own skin, Pellam's got to track down the culprit himself.

These are good novels but Bloody River Blues, is particularly good. You can see the author working on the things that will make him famous: the pitch-perfect dialogue, the right-angle plot twists, the darkness that lies barely concealed beneath the surface. If you're a Deaver fan, consider these must-reads.


Halifax freelancer David Pitt's column appears the first weekend of every month.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 4, 2011 J9

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