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Cross Current by Christine Kling (Ballantine Books, $23.95). Mysteries set in Florida demand vivid views of the landscape and its people -- and Fort Lauderdale author Christine Kling showcases the area by the shipful in "Cross Current."

But Kling's focus on families and Haitian refugees -- the real heart of her second novel about tugboat captain Seychelle Sullivan -- actually is stronger than her glimpses of Florida's waterways and striking beauty.

Kling navigates a multifaceted view of diverse families -- some devoted, some far-flung, some uninvolved and some torn apart by freedom, prejudice and greed.

Absent Friends by S.J. Rozan (Delacorte Press, $24). Few of us will ever forget where we were -- or our sense of helplessness -- on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. Can any of us really shake the sight of the Twin Towers coming down, the senseless deaths and the idea that the United States had been invaded?

In her first non-series novel, Rozan takes chances with her storytelling, lots of chances, to excel in making "Absent Friends" an engrossing immersion into lives changed by 9-11.

-- Knight Ridder Newspapers

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