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Redemption Song by Bertice Berry (Ballantine, $10.95). Berry's lyrical love story hits many notes -- romance, history, reading, sharing. "Miss Cozy" Brown, owner of Black Images bookstore, is entranced by the memoir of a slave woman named Iona, and further intrigued when two strangers -- Fina Chambers and Ross Buchanan -- meet when they both reach for the same copy of the book. Miss Cozy won't sell it, but she allows the two to read it aloud together on her patio. Iona's tale is more powerful than the one that frames it, but Berry nicely links past, present and future.

The Devil's Flu: The World's Deadliest Influenza Epidemic and the Scientific Hunt for the Virus That Caused It by Pete Davies (Owl, $14). In 1918, more than 40 million people died from the so-called Spanish flu. They died -- rich and poor, young and old -- in crowded cities and remote villages all over the world. For years, scientists have sought to discover clues to this particular pandemic in hopes of averting another. And so in 1998, the bodies of seven miners buried for 80 years in the Arctic Circle were exhumed in hopes that frozen fragments of the virus finally will reveal its secrets.

Denmark Vesey: The Buried Story of America's Largest Slave Rebellion and the Man Who Led It by David Robertson (Vintage, $13). In June of 1822 in Charleston, S.C., Denmark Vesey, a charismatic ex-slave, was inspired by the black republic in Haiti to lead 9,000 slaves in a failed uprising. Vesey's elaborate plan involved seizing the city's arsenal, murdering its white residents, burning Charleston and then escaping by ship to Haiti or Africa. Robertson's well-researched volume brings a significant revolutionary out of the shadows of history and shows how Vesey's story still raises questions about slavery and identity.

Knight Ridder Newspapers

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