Originally created 02/21/99

Chili Palmer makes a 'Cool' comeback in new novel



The heat is on Chili Palmer.

The Hollywood producer and former Brooklyn con artist figures he's the next target of the mobsters who murdered his "business associate" while the two were having lunch. But staying alive is only one of Chili's problems: He's trying to make a successful film to follow Get Lost, his recent bomb.

The new film is about singer Linda Moon, a Spice Girl knockoff whose lofty aspirations include replacing her manager. Chili tries to accommodate her, and the ensuing action becomes the plot of the movie, one that Chili makes up as he goes along.

It all unfolds in Be Cool (Delacorte), Elmore Leonard's sequel to Get Shorty. It's among the latest hardcover novels of mystery and suspense, which include works by Barbara Michaels, Bill James, Kate Wilhelm and Stephen Greenleaf.

Other Worlds (HarperCollins)

By Barbara Michaels

A family in Tennessee is threatened by a spirit whose dire predictions come true. And in Connecticut, a widow and her children are possessed by a demon after they move into her new husband's home. Are these supernatural beings at work, or flesh-and-blood evildoers? In a club room, members of a small group, including Houdini, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and a psychoanalyst, discuss the cases and advance their theories.

Top Banana (Norton)

By Bill James

In No. 13 in the series, British police detectives Harpur and Iles investigate the murder of Mandy, a 13-year-old drug runner who they think was killed in the street in the crossfire between rival gangs. Then Harpur discovers that the bullets that killed Mandy were not fired by the gangs, but by a third party who apparently targeted her.

Defense for the Devil (St. Martin's)

By Kate Wilhelm

Ms. Wilhelm, author of more than 40 books, offers her fourth novel featuring Barbara Holloway, a lawyer who tackles hopeless cases with the help of her father, Frank. The coastal town of Folsum, Ore., is buzzing about the return of Mitch Arno, a bad seed who was exiled 17 years ago and has returned with a suspiciously large pile of cash. While Barbara and the wife Mitch left behind are discussing his new-found wealth, a corpse turns up -- Mitch's.

Strawberry Sunday (Scribner)

By Stephen Greenleaf

In this 13th in the series, San Francisco private eye John Marshall Tanner is in the hospital recovering from gunshot wounds, when he meets fellow patient Rita Lombardi, a strawberry picker in California's Salinas Valley. Tanner tries to contact Rita after their release and learns that she has been murdered. As he searches for the killer, he uncovers a history of violence and corruption in the industry and allegations that Rita was a revolutionary in union reform movements.

A Cat of One's Own (Dutton)

By Lydia Adamson

This kitten-size mystery is No. 17 in the series featuring Alice Nestleton, a New York actress who moonlights as a cat sitter and amateur sleuth. Alice accompanies her friend Amanda to an animal shelter, where they hope to find a cat companion for Amanda's aging dog. They choose an odd-looking cat named Jake, despite warnings from the shelter staff that he is trouble. They should have listened: Soon, Jake is abducted and Amanda murdered.

The Crook Factory (Avon)

By Dan Simmons

This novel is based on a historical episode of World War II, when Ernest Hemingway served as an FBI operative on alert for German submarines in Cuban waters. It begins in the summer of 1942, when FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover sends agent Joe Lucas to Cuba to spy on Hemingway's activities. Hemingway and his henchmen, called "The Crook Factory," uncover intelligence that could prove fatal to Hemingway, Lucas and some innocent bystanders.