NINA'S JOURNEY.Nina Markovna.Regnery Gateway.400 pages...


October 06, 1991|By MYRON BECKENSTEIN EASY MONEY. John Boland. St. Martin's. 230 pages. $17.95.


Nina Markovna.

Regnery Gateway.

400 pages. $21.95. What makes "Nina's Journey" different from most biographies about life under Stalin is that her family did not live in Moscow and was not relatively privileged. Hers is a gripping tale of lies, betrayals and shortages, of deprivation and fear, of struggling to survive in a barren world and of always waiting for the nighttime knock on the door.

How she remembered the details of her childhood in the late 1930s is amazing. But "Nina's Journey" is filled with story after story of what the daily struggle for survival -- forget about such needless matters as dignity -- was like.

As she was becoming a teen-ager, the Soviet Union (they never could call it Russia then) was invaded by Hitler. World War II made things even worse. Her town in the Crimea changed hands several times and the Germans, while not the gentle liberators the people had hoped for, were far gentler than the Soviets when they returned.

For various reasons, what was left of her family moved to Germany, Latvia and Poland during the war. Her story of what life was like for foreign workers is equally sad. But for the author, who goes by her first name and patronymic, the worst part came after the war ended and the allies forced the unwilling Soviet workers to return to their country and almost certain death. Canning and McCarthy is a small but successful Wall Street investment firm. On Wall Street, trust can be obliterated as quickly as the stock averages change. When Jack Canning disappears and a mysterious series of transactions indicates that Canning was manipulating a stock, clients begin disappearing. Whispers on Wall Street abound.

For Ben McCarthy, Jack's apparent betrayal and the specter of an SEC investigation turn his once comfortable world inside out. McCarthy has no other choice but to come up with answers about Jack's departure and the reasons behind the stock manipulation. The quest leads Ben on a tour of Wall Street that gives new meaning to the term "cutthroat competition." Not only does McCarthy become a target but his wife is drawn into the conspiracy.

Technical jargon can make a financial mystery as turgid as any techno-thriller, but Baltimorean John Boland manages to keep the Wall Street vernacular secondary to the spinning of a fast-paced story. He has several nice plot swerves for both the reader and McCarthy, and for a first novel "Easy Money" is a polished work.



Sister Carol Anne O'Marie.


245 pages. $18.

Sister Mary Helen is not exactly enthusiastic when she is asked to appear on a TV news show, in which she will be interviewed about her role in a sensational murder case. Still, one of the program's producers is the daughter of a friend, so the elderly nun reluctantly agrees -- only to find herself in the middle of another murder.

The victim is Channel 5's investigative reporter, Christina Kelly, who drops dead on the air after eating a cyanide-laced raisin cookie. Since only one cookie on the plate had been poisoned, Christina may not have been the intended victim; it could have been meant for Sister Mary Helen herself! Inspector Dennis Gallagher and his very pregnant partner, Kate Murphy, warn the nun to let the police handle this case, but Sister Mary Helen can't resist doing a bit of amateur detecting.

Sister Carol Anne O'Marie's unlikely sleuth hides an endearing impish streak beneath her holy exterior (she loves reading mysteries, which she conceals behind a plastic prayer book jacket). "Murder in Ordinary Time," the fourth Sister Mary Helen mystery, proves once again that no one can outwit this determined detective who's got God on her side.


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