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Books in brief

MYSTERY

"Cold in Hand," by John Harvey. (Harcourt. $26)

A decade ago, British author John Harvey ended his popular and critically acclaimed series about police detective Charlie Resnik with the evocative "Last Rites." Except for a couple of supporting appearances in Harvey's other novels and several short stories, the Nottingham detective has been quiet, enjoying his jazz collection and a new life with colleague Lynn Kellogg.

An older, but no less active Resnik makes a most welcomed return in the outstanding "Cold in Hand." On the surface, it is a comprehensive police procedural with several investigations juggled with aplomb. For all its suspense, "Cold in Hand" is equally an emotionally laden novel that delves into life changes, grief and revenge.

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NATURE

When the Wolves Returned: Restoring Nature's Balance in Yellowstone by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent (photographs by Dan Hartman and Cassie Hartman (Walker & Company, $17.95).

The elimination of the wolf from Yellowstone National Park upset the delicate balance of nature, wreaking havoc on animal and plant life. Only recently did scientists realize the problem and return wolves to the park. A celebrated writer of non-fiction tells this fascinating story in this handsome book, with spectacular photographs by a father and daughter who live on the northeast border of Yellowstone.

-- Jean Westmoore

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CHILDREN'S

Beneath My Mother's Feet by Amjed Qamar (Atheneum, $16.99, 198 pages, ages 12 and up).

A new author offers a stunning debut in this vivid, coming-of-age story of a young girl from a working-class neighborhood of Karachi, Pakistan, who balks at entering an arranged marriage. Fourteen-year-old Nazia is forced to quit school and work with her mother cleaning wealthy people's houses after her father is hurt in a construction accident. When her dowry is stolen, Nazia faces an even more uncertain future as one calamity after another befalls her family. Qamar lived in Pakistan for several years and offers colorful details that bring to life the streets and neighborhoods of Karachi and a fascinating look at class structure of Pakistan and the lack of any social safety net for the poor. The novel offers a poignant examination of family life and the pressures women place on their daughters to conform to traditions they might come to question. This might be the best coming-of-age novel set in this part of the world since "Shabanu" from Suzanne Fisher Staples.

-- Jean Westmoore

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SCIENCE

Autism's False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine and the Search for a Cure by Paul A. Offit; Columbia University Press ($24.95)

Next to clean drinking water, vaccines are arguably the most important advance in public health in the last 300 years. Thanks to vaccines, we have eradicated smallpox, wiped out polio virus in the Western hemisphere, closed in on measles, and brought many other once fatal or debilitating diseases under control.

But despite the indisputable track record of vaccines in lowering mortality and morbidity here and around the world, the American public has been embroiled, over the last decade, in a heated debate about whether vaccines are safe. In particular, the notion that vaccines cause autism has taken hold of the public imagination and refuses to let go, even in the face of growing scientific evidence to the contrary.

In "Autism's False Prophets," Paul A. Offit, co-inventor of the rotavirus vaccine and chief of infectious disease at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, helps to explain why. He has done a huge public service by exposing the tragic and dangerous place the anti-vaccine hysteria has taken us.

Offit's account, written in layman's terms and with the literary skill of good storytellers, provides important insight into the fatal flaws of the key arguments of vaccine alarmists, including such well-known names as Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.

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