Friday Night Lights.
H. G. Bissinger.
355 pages. $19.95. Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter H. G. Bissinger left the Philadelphia Inquirer in July 1988 to spend a year with the perennially powerful Permian Panthers, four-time AAAAA football state champions, of Odessa, Texas, an oil-boom-then-bust town ranked among the national top 10 for worst places to live.
The "winning is everything" mania grips all Odessans, and Mr Bissinger vividly re-creates the high-stakes emotional game that the high school, especially the coaches, cheerleaders and players, both enjoys and fears. As he chronicles the '88 season, the football-lovin' Mr. Bissinger never stops asking: at what price? Permian football contains elements of racism, sexism, regional chauvinism and inhumanity. The Odessa school districts, forced by court order to desegregate in 1982, were gerrymandered so that the best black athletes would attend Permian and the less athletically inclined Hispanics would go to Odessa High. Equally disgraceful is the system's neglect of academics.
Football under the "Friday Night Lights" is both wonderful an discreditable, and Mr. Bissinger adeptly tells why.
Minneapolis police officer Lucas Davenport, who was featured in John Sandford's stunning "Rules of Prey," returns in "Shadow Prey." Evidence found in a series of ritual murders across the country leads to the Twin Cities' American Indian community. Davenport is assigned to a task force investigating the murders.
Not only does the team face resistance from the local Indians but it must contend with interference from an FBI probe and its director, who is almost rabid in his hatred of American Indians. If the situation and politics of the investigation were not complicated enough, Davenport is attracted to Lily Rothenburg, a married New York policewoman assigned to the investigation.
As he did in "Rules of Prey," Mr. Sandford -- the pseudonym of journalist John Camp -- manages to re-create authentically the city's mean streets. Where "Shadow Prey" falters is in the characters. Lucas, a multimillionaire game designer, ladies man, street-smart hombre, bon vivant and expert marksman, simply is not believable. Lily doesn't fare much better. When "Shadow Prey" concentrates on the investigation, the novel hums with energy. But the detours into their budding romance are neither credible nor necessary.
Wish You Were Here.
Rita Mae Brown
and Sneaky Pie Brown.
256 pages. $18.95.
"Wish You Were Here" is definitely the best mystery novel ever co-written by a cat. The first entry in this "kitty crime series" masterminded by Rita Mae Brown's feline companion, Sneaky Pie, should delight cat fanciers; others no doubt will find it far too cutesy. Like Ms. Brown's previous novels, "Wish You Were Here" takes place in a small Southern town filled with offbeat characters. The postmistress of Crozet, Va., Harry Haristeen, is horrified when her neighbors start getting bumped off in very gruesome ways. Nosy Harry knows that the victims received mysterious postcards before their deaths, and vows to solve the crime before more casualties occur.
Harry's tiger cat, Mrs. Murphy, and corgi, Tee Tucker, are the real heroes of the book, though. Relying on information from the other animals in town as well as their keen senses of smell, Harry's pets are hot on the killer's trail. "Wish You Were Here" is sassy, silly and plenty of fun.