WAGON.Jon Katz.Doubleday Perfect...

DEATH BY STATION

February 21, 1993|By SUSANNE TROWBRIDGE CROSSING OVER: THE VIETNAM STORIES. Richard Currey. Clark City. * 58 pages. $11 (paperback). | SUSANNE TROWBRIDGE CROSSING OVER: THE VIETNAM STORIES. Richard Currey. Clark City. * 58 pages. $11 (paperback).,LOS ANGELES TIMES

DEATH BY STATION WAGON.

Jon Katz.

Doubleday Perfect Crime.

360 pages. $17.

Christopher "Kit" Deleeuw, suburban detective, bears little resemblance to a traditional private eye. His office is in the American Way Mall; he drives a battered Volvo station wagon; his No. 1 priority is providing for his wife and kids. Kit can't afford to right the world's wrongs unless he knows there's a fat paycheck involved.

That's why he feels so ambivalent when some high school students want to hire him to clear their friend's name. Ken Dale apparently strangled his girlfriend, Carol Lombardi, and then killed himself; his pals don't believe that Ken was capable of such an act, and they want Kit to investigate. It seems like an open-and-shut case, but he finally agrees. He finds that the deaths are strangely connected to a series of sensational murders in their suburb at the turn of the century.

This mystery by Jon Katz, a former editor at the News-American, is a mixed bag at best. Kit, an ex-Wall Street hotshot who's still not entirely comfortable in his new line of work, is an immensely likable fellow. But the book could have used some trimming (the shallowness of affluent suburbanites -- and how easily their tranquillity is shattered when a violent crime occurs -- is recounted over and over ). Since this is the first book in a planned series, there's obviously a lot more trouble ahead for Kit's suburb, so perhaps the next installment will feature less description and more action. "I spent the last years of my boyhood, high-strung with weaponry in a distant jungle," Richard Currey writes in this finely crafted book of prose poetry. A former Navy combat corpsman and author of the excellent Vietnam-heavy novel "Fatal Light," Mr. Currey uses his literary gifts in the new book to home in on his war and post-war experiences in an evocative, poetic manner.

"Crossing Over," a series of minimalist snapshots, is a slight book in terms of words and pages -- you can read it during your lunch break. But the book is long on art and content. "I knew that after the war nothing in my life would feel true for a long time to come, except perhaps my imagination, the private life my imagination might carry, aside from me, beyond me," he writes, providing a hint about the inspiration for his remarkable writing about Vietnam.

Here's another poetic sentence that exemplifies his literary skills: "I was convinced that, in the end, nothing could be explained unless I talked about the smell of rain at night, or the sight of a farmer's face before his pig flock was mutilated by machine-gun fire, or the single glance into the doorway of a thatch-blaze when I saw the figure inside moving and on fire and knew it was too late, too late, always too late."

MARC LEEPSON

EVERYTHING ON THE TABLE.

Colman Andrews.

Bantam.

308 pages. $21.50.

This is the story of a lifelong love affair between the author and good food -- sumptuous, sensual good food, the kind people swooned over before there were such things as nutrition labels, before people swapped cholesterol counts on a first date. The essays are part autobiography: Mr. Andrews' love of cooking is a clear argument for environment over heredity, since his parents ate plain food in cans.

Some of his favorite meals have been taken with Claude, his adopted extra father, and cooked by Pepita, Claude's wife. They introduced the young Andrews to French food, and to a decidedly un-American attitude about food -- that wonderful food is a sacrament to be taken despite what Jane Brody and others of her healthful ilk might have to say. His often curmudgeonly air is sure to ruffle some feathers, but his is a useful, urgent voice -- and the recipes a vicarious thrill, even if your doctor won't let you eat them.

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