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Books in brief

CHILDREN'S

The Cats in the Doll Shop by Yona Zeldis McDonough, illustrated by Heather Malone; Viking, 134 pages ($14.99). Ages 8 to 11.

This charming companion novel to "The Doll Shop Downstairs" again features Breittlemann's Doll Shop in New York City and Anna, the daughter of Russian immigrants. The year is 1915 and Anna is awaiting the arrival of her cousin from Russia and worrying about a cat and kittens living on a fire escape of their apartment building.

The author paints a vivid portrait of the immigrant experience and life amid Russian Jews in New York, almost on the eve of the Russian Revolution, and pairs it with the charm of an old-fashioned tale of doll-making as Anna decides to design a special doll for her cousin. The book features interesting color of early 20th century New York, including legendary toy store F.A.O. Schwarz and the library, and has a helpful timeline at the end and a glossary of terms.

-- Jean Westmoore

***

SUSPENSE

Down the Darkest Road by Tami Hoag; Dutton, 448 pages ($26.95)

Tami Hoag takes readers back to 1990 in this compelling finale to her superb trilogy that began with "Deeper Than the Dead."

Lauren Lawton and her 16-year-old daughter, Leah, have moved to Oak Knoll, Calif., seeking a refuge. Four years earlier in Santa Barbara, Lauren's eldest daughter Leslie disappeared and is believed dead; her husband, overcome with grief, committed suicide. Lauren knows who was responsible for Leslie's abduction -- Roland Ballencoa, a scary photographer who patrols playgrounds and sporting events snapping pictures of teenagers. While the police agreed with Lauren's suspicions, no one could link evidence to Ballencoa.

Lauren has never recovered emotionally, but the "thick black tar of her emotions" means she neglects Leah, who has her own poignant scars. Lauren's desire for revenge is ratcheted up when she believes she spots Ballencoa in the supermarket parking lot. Oak Knoll police detective Tony Mendez and his partner investigate as Lauren continues to disintegrate.

-- McClatchy Newspapers

***

NONFICTION

Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest by Wade Davis; Knopf ($32.50)

Master historian Wade Davis has written a genuinely gripping, thoroughly researched and beautifully illustrated book about the period of 1921-24, which saw an intrepid group of British, Canadian and Australian war veterans set about to conquer Mount Everest in three dangerous expeditions.

"Into the Silence" begins where the Great War ends, when the last vestige of the Old Order was shattered, and death had made a mockery of notions like honor, valor and glory. The dozen or so young men who composed the British Empire's expeditions to Everest in the early 1920s were as much a part of the Lost Generation as Hemingway and Fitzgerald. They climbed into a void in order to discover their souls and to escape the crushing boredom of bourgeois life.

"Into the Silence" was 10 years in the writing and is remarkable on many levels. It tells the story of courageous, bull-headed and often unpredictable English climbers, men like Guy Bullock, the best alpinist of his day; Sandy Irvine, an accomplished rock climber who died on the shoulder of the North Col with George Mallory in 1924; and the indomitable George Finch, the Alpine Club's best rock climber.

"Into the Silence" is also a moving psychological romance. What, after all, would compel Mallory to climb up and beyond 26,000 feet in an era of hobnail boots and woolen vests, while, at home, his wife and two small children waited with broken hearts? "Into the Silence" is a masterpiece standing atop its own world, along with the classic "Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer.

-- McClatchy Newspapers