Title: "The Long Sun"Author: Janice LucasPublisher: Soho...

BOOKS BRIEFS

January 08, 1995|By DIANE SCHARPER Title: "There Was a Little Girl" Author: Ed McBain Publisher: Warner Books Length, price: 323 pages, $21.95

Title: "The Long Sun"

Author: Janice Lucas

Publisher: Soho Press

Length, price: 266 pages, $22 Maryland resident Janice Lucas has dedicated her first novel, "The Long Sun," to her British and Cherokee grandmothers. The book doesn't have an epigraph, but a statement made by Chief Seattle suggests itself: "Whatever we do to the web [of life], we do to ourselves. All things are bound together." How the Indian and the European cultures interweave is the story's point.

Set in the Pennsylvania wilderness, the action occurs in the 1700s. There is no single protagonist, unless one would call the five members of the Billips family a protagonist. Ms. Lucas focuses on several people, seldom getting inside her characters. Once in a while, she zooms in, as in the case of the two love stories that develop. But usually readers see these characters from a distance and never come close enough to identify with them.

The plot, though, contains many fine moments. When the story opens, the family is befriended by Lame Crow, a Tuscarora Indian. Later, the Billips family joins the Tuscarora Indian tribe. Adapting to tribal ways, they assume Indian names, live in a lodge, join hunting parties, bathe communally, pray to Indian gods, lose their white identities and take Indian spouses. The climax of the novel occurs when hostilities erupt between the white man and the Indian, forcing the Billipses to choose sides.

Not many series books begin with the protagonist being gunned down in the opening page. But that is exactly what happens to Matthew Hope -- Ed McBain's lawyer-hero -- in this entry in the series set in the fictional city of Calusa, Fla.

After a traumatic murder case, Hope decides to pursue real estate law -- a more mundane but seemingly less treacherous area. Hope made a nearly fatal mistake. He was working on a real estate deal for a small traveling circus when the ambush occurred.

As Hope clings to his life, his friends -- including his girlfriend, law partner, and two private investigators -- explore the real estate transaction to uncover clues. What their probe reveals is a years-old apparent suicide that may have been a murder and a scheme with millions of dollars at stake. Through it all, there is the drama of Hope's struggle for life.

Like his 87th Precinct series, Ed McBain's Matthew Hope series is punctuated by wonderful characters, convincing settings, terrific dialogue and explosive plots with unusual endings. "There Was a Little Girl," the 11th Hope mystery, is up to the standards set in Mr. McBain's other work.

ROBERT BAYLUS

Title: "World Orders Old and New"

Author: Noam Chomsky

Publisher: Columbia

Length, price: 311 pages, $24.95

Some years ago, the liberal, dovish Washington Monthly summed up Noam Chomsky as "a tedious Johnny One-note." Dr. Chomsky's latest book isn't going to make anybody change that estimate.

No matter what radical Third World regimes or terrorist movements do or are accused of doing, Dr. Chomsky argues, it's no worse than, or justified by, the things rich individuals, countries and multinational corporations do as they plot to keep the rest of the world poor and dependent. The Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, NAFTA, the Marshall Plan, the European settlement of the New World -- you name the event, and Dr. Chomsky is there with his closely printed pages of text and dozens of footnotes, often to his own work, to document the evil schemes behind it. If I didn't know he was Jewish, I'd wonder why he left out the Elders of Zion.

The book comes with recommendations from such usual suspects as Ramsey Clark and the radical historian Howard Zinn.

I can recommend it for someone to whom you'd like to give a case of heartburn.

JEFFREY M. LANDAW

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