HOMEBODYLouise TitchenerHarper, 312 pages, $4.99...

BOOK BRIEFS

August 08, 1993|By SUSANNE TROWBRIDGE OLD SCORES Aaron Elkins Scribner's 242 pages, $20

HOMEBODY

Louise Titchener

Harper

, 312 pages, $4.99 (paperback) Baltimore readers may get a creepy feeling of deja vu from "Homebody," a thriller by local author Louise Titchener. The novel's heroine, Toni Credella, moves into a rowhouse apartment where a Johns Hopkins graduate student had been murdered three months earlier. Obviously, Ms. Titchener was inspired by the murder of a young Charles Village woman a few years back; because there was no sign of a forced entry, the police postulated that the victim knew her assailant, but the case was never solved.

Shortly after moving in, Toni sees the ghostly face of the dead woman, Rebecca Kelso, in her mirror. Curious, Toni begins talking to the victim's friends and neighbors, and gradually realizes she must try to find Rebecca's murderer. "Yet even as I thought this, I knew how loony it was," she muses. "How could someone like me bring down a violent, insane killer?"

Toni has a more believable motive than many amateur sleuths -- she shot her abusive husband and feels that she can somehow atone for his death by solving this crime. Her efforts take her all over the city, and Ms. Titchener makes nice use of Baltimore locations ranging from Little Italy to Greenspring Valley. Several grisly killings may make "Homebody" a bit too intense for some readers, but fans of Mary Higgins Clark should enjoy this suspenseful tale. Chris Norgren is curator for Renaissance and Baroque art at the Seattle Art Museum. Out of the blue, the museum is offered an original Rembrandt by an eccentric French art collector. The offer is too good to be true, but it is contingent upon no scientific testing of the painting to ensure its authenticity.

The affair smells of fraud, but the museum cannot chance passing on such a possible treasure. Chris is dispatched to France to determine its lineage. What he finds is a situation considerably more serious than whether the painting is authentic. Chris walks into a scenario of upper-crust revenge and murder that has its roots in the Nazi occupation of France.

Aaron Elkins' "Old Scores" is the third Chris Norgren mystery, and is a splendid mix of engaging characters, art lore and interesting locales wrapped up in a tidy murder mystery. Mr. Elkins manages to make the rather arcane science of determining art authenticity quite understandable, and Chris Norgren is a charming hero. Let's hope there are many more potential scams in his -- and our -- future.

BOB BAYLUS

DANCING THROUGH LIFE

IN A PAIR OF BROKEN HEELS

Mickey Guisewite; illustrated

by Cathy Guisewite

Bantam

! 210 pages, $14.95

Anyone who reads the comics knows Cathy Guisewite, creator of the "Cathy" comic strip, an arch look at the modern woman syndicated in over 1,000 newspapers worldwide. Now Ms. Guisewite is in cahoots with her younger, thinner, prettier, happily married sister Mickey (we get this description in Cathy's foreword), an advertising creative type with a yen for -- well, what are these stories, actually?

They aren't fiction. They're brief little essays on the state of the world -- a world where daughter spends money on compost when mom used leaves and grass clippings, which were free; where shopping patterns are gender-specific and there is no such thing as enough black shoes; where no one in the world has time for a decent lunch. Ms. Guisewite the scribe uses a "can you imagine" tone that verges on the monotonous. She is neither angry nor idiosyncratic enough to carry an entire volume. Given her sister's popularity, lots of people will grab this book and get a chuckle here, or a chortle there, but probably not a sustained howl.

LOS ANGELES TIMES

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