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Her new crime novel is ongoing proof that Californian Elizabeth George continues to merit the unique encomium of being the American woman who's writing in the best tradition of the classic British literary mystery.

"Deception on His Mind," coming on the heels of her spectacularly successful best-selling "The Presence of the Enemy," leaves little doubt that its author is a worthy rival of P.D. James and Ruth Rendell, England's top contemporary whodunit practitioners.

She can even be compared favorably with Dame Agatha Christie who, unlike George, may have written wooden narrative but had no equal when it came to dexterously plotting inventive puzzlers with jolting denouements.

And George -- who fell in love, not with Brits but with their mysteries, while on a Shakespeare student tour in the United Kingdom -- isn't afraid to experiment with her principal characters. In "Deception," she's sent her usual Scotland Yard Inspector Thomas Lynley on his honeymoon so she can move Lynley's cruder, longtime partner, the prickly Detective Sgt. Barbara Havers, to center stage.

This innovative device permits readers to view criminous goings-on through the eyes of this worldly-wise woman rather than those of her genteel male superior.

It's up to Havers to lead the probe of the murder of a Pakistani member of an Asian community in a dying seacoast town in southern England.

Racial roiling follows, vengeance is in the air and, before fadeout, there's a white-knuckle, motor-boat chase across the Channel during which Inspector Lynley proves her mettle as a cop and a resourceful woman.

Some may complain that more than 600 pages is too long for a mystery. But for Elizabeth George addicts, who read her for her acute sensitivity to, and faithful depiction of, all things British, it may not be long enough.

The author, 48 and creator of eight previous crime novels, has received America's Anthony and Agatha Awards, France's "Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere," and the MIMI, Germany's mystery prize.

George divides her time between Huntington, Calif., and London. "Deception" is a Book-of-the-Month Club selection.
DECEPTION ON HIS MIND
By Elizabeth George
Bantam
613 pages, $24.95

More thrills, briefly
The Cezanne Chase, by Thomas Swan; Newmarket Press, 307 pages, $21.95 -- A new novel by a thriller writer who's made the high-risk world of international art his milieu. His Scotland Yard sleuths must discover what's behind the destruction of self-portraits by renowned French painter Paul Cezanne. Swan's first novel was "The DaVinci Deception," and he's now writing a thriller centering on a missing, priceless Faberge Imperial Egg.

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