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A SUMMER PLUM

Looking for a solid murder mystery? Read Nelson DeMille's "Plum Island." Or maybe an offbeat police procedural? Try "Plum Island." Or perhaps a yarn about Captain Kidd and buried pirate treasure? "Plum Island" is the answer. Or even a racy fable starring a lusty young detective and a couple of loose, willing ladies? Again, you can't go wrong with "Plum Island."

As you've already guessed, DeMille's tense, intriguing, rollicking, rambunctious "Plum Island" rolls all of the above into a splendidly suspenseful romp. It's a more light-hearted, airier, more flamboyant DeMille who's trolling the dark waters this time.

Specifically, he's writing again about Long Island, a venue he made famous in 1990's "The Gold Coast." He concentrates here on Plum Island, an islet off the Atlantic tip of the larger island's north fork.

An attractive husband-wife team, the Gordons -- working at an animal research center on Plum -- has been murdered, and local authorities have hired a neighbor, recuperating NYPD homicide detective John Corey, as a "consultant."

As the case careens all over the venue, Corey -- between sexual dalliances with willing ladies -- determines that pirate doubloons buried 300 years ago are the principal clue to the murders which, by book's end, include several victims besides the Gordons.

It's difficult to imagine a story as downright enjoyable as "Plum Island" -- especially with the summer reading season at hand.
PLUM ISLAND
By Nelson DeMille
Warner
528 pages, $25

More thrills, briefly
Ghirlandaio's Daughter, by John Spencer Hill; St. Martin's, 239 pages, $22.95 -- Another whodunit by an author lauded for his ability to deliver "a complex, literate and disturbing novel." It's set in an international art dealer's beautiful Tuscan villa, and begins with discovery of an American with a bronze spear of a Mycenaean warrior in his chest.

Diamond Head, by Charles Knief; St. Martin's, 232 pages, $21.95 -- A U.S. Navy admiral seeks help in finding the slayer of his daughter. He turns to retired naval officer John Caine, who's living on his boat in Hawaiian waters. Caine swings into action a la James Bond.

Los Alamos, by Joseph Kanon; Broadway Books, 403 pages, $25 -- What more appropriate a backdrop for a suspenseful thriller than America's 1945 super-secret city of Los Alamos, on a remote mesa 40 miles from Santa Fe, N.M. Within this city that officially doesn't exist, 40,000 people are racing to beat the Germans in perfecting an atomic bomb that could end World War II. This debut novel, skillfully integrating fact and fiction, is a Book-of-the-Month Club selection.