A Ticket to the Boneyard.Lawrence Block.Morrow.302 pages...


December 02, 1990|By ROBERT BAYLUS Send No Blessings. Phyliss Reynolds Naylor. Jean Karl/Atheneum. 231 pages. $13.95. Ages 12 and up.

A Ticket to the Boneyard.

Lawrence Block.


302 pages. $18.95. James Leo Motley enjoys hurting women. After battering a prostitute friend of police officer Matt Scudder, Motley is framed for a second crime and sent to prison for 12 years. By the time Motley is released, Scudder has left the NYPD, battled alcoholism and become an unlicensed private eye. While Scudder may have forgotten about Motley, Motley has spent a long time thinking about Scudder and how to exact revenge.

Motley's reprisals are aimed at the women in Scudder's life. No matter how innocuous the relationship, any woman Scudder once knew is marked for death.

"A Ticket to the Boneyard" is a superlative detective novel, anLawrence Block gives a vivid portrait of a New York not found in the travel guides. Motley is a terrific villain and Scudder is an interesting, if tarnished, knight. The pacing is relentless, with more than a few curves awaiting Scudder as he nears his target. "A Ticket to the Boneyard" is the eighth Matthew Scudder mystery and may be the best.

For the young people who know about urban poverty firsthand -- and for those who are aware only vicariously through the media -- the story of the Herndon family in rural West Virginia will be revealing. Beth's trailer home is filled and overfilled with the eight growing children of Roy and Lorna Herndon. This year before Beth's 16th birthday is filled with pride, with love and with too many secrets.

She is determined to be really good at something, even though no one -- not even her first boyfriend, Harless Prather -- seems to care whether she can do or be anything at all. Events are carrying her from her overcrowded home and toward an early marriage and a repeat of her mother's life. Married at 17, Lorna sees each child as a blessing, but it is Beth who prays to God to send "no more blessings."

Phyliss Reynolds Naylor, a Marylander, knows this culture opoverty and pride of the people of West Virginia, where the young leave to build their lives elsewhere. Her strong character, Beth Herndon, may be among the ones who have the courage and determination to stay and grow. This is an excellent book for parents to share with young teens.


The Past Is Another Country.

Lois Battle.


392 pages. $19.95.

Megan Hanlon, the central character of "The Past Is Another Country," had a difficult childhood. Born in Texas, she was sent ++ to Australia to be raised by nuns at a young age when her parents divorced. Megan became friends with a classmate, Greta, and a teacher, Sister Joan.

Through pluck and hard work, Megan has become a successful filmmaker. Years later, Megan returns to Australia for a film festival and renews her friendships. Greta, who has married a successful physician, is very married and very unhappy. Her husband is as cold to his family as he is famous. Sister Joan is taking courses at the local university and finds herself falling in love with a professor.

Lois Battle has written a rich and articulate novel about three women facing change in a complicated world. While Megan is the central character and beautifully drawn, neither Joan nor Greta is shortchanged: They confront their own profound choices. The resolutions to their dilemmas are not easy or contrived.


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