Patricia Moyes Henry Holt 192 pages...

TWICE IN A BLUE MOON

September 26, 1993|By SUSANNE TROWBRIDGE QUEEN BESS: DAREDEVIL AVIATOR Doris L. Rich Smithsonian Institution Press 153 pages. $ 18.95 | SUSANNE TROWBRIDGE QUEEN BESS: DAREDEVIL AVIATOR Doris L. Rich Smithsonian Institution Press 153 pages. $ 18.95,LOS ANGELES TIMES

TWICE IN A BLUE MOON Patricia Moyes Henry Holt 192 pages. $19.95. Patricia Moyes' series featuring Scotland Yard Superintendent Henry Tibbett and his wife, Emmy, is one of the longest-running in mystery fiction -- the first installment, "Dead Men Don't Ski," was published in 1959. But "Twice in a Blue Moon," Ms. Moyes' long-awaited new novel, is a rather bland affair, not the perfect puzzler fans have come to expect from this author.

Instead of using her usual third-person voice, Ms. Moyes has innkeeper Susan Gardiner narrate the story. Susan meets Henry after a diner dies in her elegant restaurant; lethal mushrooms had been added to the woman's veal dish. When another guest is poisoned by the same means, Susan fears that the reputation of her charming country inn will be ruined forever, unless Henry can prove that no one on her staff concocted the deadly dinners.

Susan's narration has the unfortunate effect of keeping the Tibbetts at arm's length from the reader; instead of observing Henry's diligent police work, we are left listening to Susan's woes. The identity of the murderer is dismayingly easy to ferret out, too. Newcomers to the series should start with one of the superior early novels, such as "Season of Snows and Sins" or "Many Deadly Returns." Fans may enjoy the chance to get

reacquainted with the Tibbetts, and will just have to hope for a return to form the next time around. As a manicurist on the South Side of Chicago, Bess Coleman dreamed of becoming an airplane pilot. But as a black woman with no money for training and no flight school willing to enroll her because of segregation, it would have been quite understandable if she had let her dream die.

But as this first major biography of her notes, Coleman didn't take no for an answer. She marshaled financial backers and went to France, becoming the first black person to be licensed by the prestigious Federation Aeronautique Internationale, in 1921 -- two years before Amelia Earhart was licensed.

The author, who did an earlier biography of Earhart, appears to be a meticulous researcher.

Despite that, many questions are left unanswered, mostly because witnesses are dead and documents destroyed. While Coleman's story easily could have been told in a magazine article, the book is a treasure for documenting the colorful life that was cut short in 1926 when a World War I surplus plane in which the barnstormer and acrobat was riding crashed. This would be an ideal book for adolescents eager to try their wings in any field.

MARILYN MCCRAVEN

FROM THE GOOD EARTH: A CELEBRATION OF GROWING FOOD AROUND THE WORLD Michael Ableman Abrams

168 pages. $39.95

"Agriculture, writes Wes Jackson in the introduction to Mr. Ableman's hopeful and inspiring book, "not agribusiness -- is the source of culture. We have to ask: Is the deterioration of the environment an outward mirror of an inner condition?"

This is a book, he assures us, about "agriculture with a human face." So many shades of green in these rich color photographs! So many faces from different parts of the world, people of different ages growing such a wide variety of good foods with a wide variety of tools and methods: Intercropping! Raised beds! Weeds! China, Peru, the "Garden of Eatin' " at the corner of 25th and Dickinson in South Philadelphia, tended mostly by old black women.

And by contrast, California's Central Valley, where the caption reads, "Where are the families? Where has everyone gone?"

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