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MURDER AND MAYHEM -- WHAT FUN! INTRIGUE IS ENTICING TO FANS OF SUSPENSE

IRONICALLY, many fiction fans this Christmas will be hoping to receive books about trouble on earth and ill will toward men, the antithesis of the season's sentiments. Such readers are suspense aficionados whose favorites are novels about murder,political shenanigans and international intrigue. There's a bumper 1990 crop out there, including these standouts:

Dick Francis' horsey nail-biter "Longshot" (Putnam, $19.95); espionage stories like Len Deighton's "Spy Sinker" (HarperCollins, $21.95) and Clive Egleton's "In the Red" (St. Martin's, $17.95); P.D. James' "Devices and Desires" (Knopf, $19.95) and Colin Dexter's "The Wench Is Dead" (St. Martin's), both brilliant whodunits; Elmore Leonard's hard-boiled "Get Shorty" (Delacorte, $18.95); David Lindsey's psychological thriller "Mercy" (Doubleday, $19.95), and Gerald Seymour's pulse-pounding "The Running Target" (Morrow, $19.95).

Besides the above, which we have reviewed, time and space precluded our noting many other worthy entries. Such as:

"L.A. Confidential" (Mysterious Press, $19.95), James Ellroy's spellbinding noir novel of police corruption; Edward Mathis' "Out of the Shadows" (Scribners, $17.95) and Richard Abshire's "Turnaround Jack" (Morrow, $18.95), tough PI yarns, and Jay Brandon's courtroom drama, "Fade the Heat" (Pocket Books, $18.95).

Readers relishing offbeat bloodletting locales will enjoy David Doyle's "An Accurate Watch" (Morrow, $20.95), set in Africa; Stuart M. Kaminsky's "The Man Who Walked Like a Bear" (Scribners, $16.95), about a Moscow cop, and sleuthing in the Hebrides in "The Suspense Is Killing Me" by Thomas Maxwell (Mysterious, $19.95).

Also William L. Andrea's "Killed on the Rocks" (Mysterious, $17.95), with an Adirondack mountain setting; Sol Stein's "A Deniable Man" (McGraw-Hill, $18.95), kicked off by terrorism in Rome; Sean Flannery's Geneva-backdropped "Counterstrike" (Morrow, $19.95), and Jo Bannister's "Shards" (Crime Club, $14.95), sited in a PLO terrorist training camp.

Flat-out mysteries, complete with corpse, clues and red herrings, include "Now Let's Talk of Graves" by Sarah Shankman (Pocket, $18.95); Rex Burns' "Parts Unknown" (Viking, $17.95), and Barbara Paul's "In-Laws and Outlaws" (Scribners, $17.95). In Robert Campbell's "The Gift Horse's Mouth" (Pocket, $17.95), a sewer inspector plays Sherlock H., and medieval murder is at the heart of Ellis Peters' "The Potter's Field" (Mysterious, $16.95).

For espionage enthusiasts: Robert Littell's "The Once and Future Spy" (Bantam, $18.95), E. Howard Hunt's "Murder in State" (St. Martin's, $17.95), and Brendan Howley's "The Third Circle" (Viking, $17.95).

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