MURDERS.Nancy...

THE 27-INGREDIENT CHILICON CARNE

February 14, 1993|By SUSANNE TROWBRIDGE DAUGHTERS OF THE HOUSE. Indrani Aikath-Gyaltsen. ! Ballantine Books. 199 pages. $18.

THE 27-INGREDIENT CHILI

CON CARNE MURDERS.

Nancy Pickard.

Delacorte.

296 pages. $18.

Before her death in 1984, Virginia Rich had written three mysteries featuring Eugenia Potter, a food-loving, sixtysomething amateur sleuth. She had also started a fourth, "The 27-Ingredient Chili Con Carne Murders." Nancy Pickard, a successful author in her own right, was one of many fans who were disappointed that Rich was unable to complete the book.

Now Ms. Pickard has put aside her own Jenny Cain mystery series in order to continue the adventures of the doughty widow who solves crimes when she's not busy whipping up gourmet meals. In the new novel, Mrs. Potter returns to her beloved cattle ranch in Arizona, only to find that her ranch manager has just been murdered. Ricardo Ortega was the most popular man in Wind Valley -- or so it seemed. Obviously, somebody wanted the capable Ricardo out of the way for good, and Mrs. Potter presumes that one of her neighbors is the culprit. What better way to bring all the suspects together than by offering them some of her famous 27-ingredient chili?

Wisely, Ms. Pickard did not try to mimic Rich's slightly stuffier prose style; fans of the earlier Mrs. Potter mysteries will be happy to know, though, that long, loving descriptions of food are still an important part of the narrative. Recipes are included, so after finding out whodunit, readers can prepare Mrs. Potter's chili or her Mexican meatball soup. "Daughters of the House,'' Indrani Aikath-Gyaltsen's first novel, is more than just a girl's coming-of-age story. In it, a young Indian woman does come of age. She also learns about love and lust and her capacity for both. The lesson she learns is the point of this penetrating and beautifully written story.

Eighteen-year-old Chchanda, her younger sister, Mala, and the servant woman, Paro, had lived a poor but happy existence in their grandfather's house, with Madhu, the lovely sister of Chchanda's deceased mother. As Madhu approaches middle age, she falls in love with, and is seduced by, the lawyer, Pratap. When Madhu thinks she's pregnant, she and Pratap marry.

At first, the relationship is a happy one. Soon the women -- especially Chchanda, who narrates the story -- become jealous of Madhu's affection for Pratap. They see him as an invader, bent on breaking up their home and separating them from their beloved Madhu. Then as Chchanda learns that Madhu is seriously ill, her feelings take an unusual twist.

DIANE SCHARPER

BOOK OF SILLY STORIES

AND SONGS.

Diane Goode, editor.

( Dutton Children's Books.

64 pages. $15. Ages 4-10.

Children enjoy anthologies as much as adult readers, and for the same reasons. And whether they are reading by themselves or being read to, children can discover something new on a day-to-day basis in this fascinating collection of stories, poems and songs. Diane Goode, who is well known for the many titles she has written and illustrated, has turned her talent to carefully selecting interesting and enjoyable reading for young people.

This book is filled with such old favorites as "On Top of Spaghetti" and includes the music to accompany it. The Norwegian tale, "The Husband Who Was to Mind the House," has always been fun, and is even more enjoyable nowadays in an era in which the work men and women do is compared. There are such novelties as "Bendemolena," in which garbled words cause everyone to do seriously funny acts. In "The Disobedient Eels," a noodlehead story collected from Venice, the reader gets to laugh at someone silly enough to make everyone feel intelligent.

A pleasure to hold, this beautifully illustrated and designed book is a treasure for the mind and the eye. Ms. Goode, a Caldecott Honor Medalist, has drawn borders, full-page illustrations, and small cheery pictures on every page. And there are pages of background information and a bibliography to help you find many more great stories.

JUDITH B. ROSENFELD

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