Legally, writer Ed McBain was Evan Hunter, but even that name was a smokescreen; he'd been born Salvatore Lombino. Whatever you call him...

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Legally, writer Ed McBain was Evan Hunter, but even that name was a smokescreen; he’d been born Salvatore Lombino. Whatever you call him, McBain, who died in July at 78, was one terrific writer.

McBain had a long run, turning out some 100 books under various pseudonyms, and he went out at the top of his game with this month’s publication of “Fiddlers” (Harcourt, 272 pp., $25).

This last book finds McBain’s legendary 87th Precinct cops hunting a multiple murderer. The perp’s using the same M.O., but the victims are being picked seemingly at random — except that they’re all elderly. Weird, until the cops get a handle on it.

“Belle Ruin” (Viking, 346 pp., $25.95) is a superior literary mystery continuing a story the formidable Martha Grimes began in “Hotel Paradise” and “Cold Flat Junction.” We’re again in the hands of a startlingly precocious 12-year-old, Emma Graham, who lives at the Hotel Paradise, a seedy resort where her mother is the cook.

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In between duties at the hotel, Emma is the youngest cub reporter in the local paper’s history. When she finds the burned-out shell of a once-fabulous hotel called Belle Rouen, Emma digs into the story behind its burning, years earlier, and the related disappearance of a baby.

Grimes’ strong suit is her knack for vividly eccentric characters — especially the narrator. Emma doesn’t resemble any 12-year-old on the planet that I, for one, inhabit, but she’s irresistible nonetheless.

Yea! Seattle-area writer Martin Limón is back. “The Door to Bitterness” (Soho, 278 pp., $23) is a terrific addition to his series about Army cops serving in Korea in the 1970s.

Coming up

Walter Mosley


The author reads from “Cinnamon Kiss,” 7:30 p.m. Sept. 25, Elliott Bay Book Co., 101 S. Main St., Seattle, free (206-624-6600 or www.elliottbaybook.com) and 7:30 p.m. Sept. 28, Jackson Street Books, 2301 S. Jackson St., Seattle, free (206-324-7000); and autographs books, noon,

Sept. 29, Seattle Mystery Bookshop, 117 Cherry St., Seattle; free (206-587-5737 or www.seattlemystery.com) .

Martin Limón


The author autographs “The Door to Bitterness,” noon, Sept. 24, Seattle Mystery Bookshop,

117 Cherry St., Seattle, free (206-587-5737 or www.seattlemystery.com); and reads from the book,

7 p.m., Sept. 29, University Book Store, 4326 University Way N.E., Seattle, free (206-634-3400 or www.ubookstore.com).

Narrator George Sueño is a compelling and complex figure, tough but unusually sensitive to Korean culture. Along with his hot-headed partner, Ernie Bascomb, Sueño rules the lives of GIs who frequent Itaewon, Seoul’s sprawling array of bars and houses of ill-repute.

But when Sueño’s gun is stolen and used in a crime spree, the two must go far afield — as far as a grim and strikingly depicted DMZ — to track the culprits down. They also uncover the motive for the crimes, which hinges on family shame and the need for revenge.

Easy Rawlins — black WWII veteran, private eye and moody moral center of Walter Mosley’s thoughtful, terse series — has witnessed some important flashpoints in America’s shifting race history. In “Cinnamon Kiss” (Little, Brown, 320 pp., $24.95), it’s the Summer of Love, and some strange new entities called hippies dot Easy’s California turf.

Unlike earlier Rawlins’ adventures, social upheaval plays only a peripheral role here. With his daughter in need of expensive medical treatment, Easy is too preoccupied with doing his job — finding a woman mixed up in the disappearance of a crusading attorney — to pay much attention to what’s happening in the larger world.

“Dead Man Docking” (Morrow, 325 pp., $23.95) is the latest ultra-light, always delicious “cozy” in prolific Seattleite Mary Daheim‘s series about bed-and-breakfast owner Judith McMonigle Flynn.

Just as Judith and her cousin join a cruise departing from San Francisco, the ship’s owner turns up dead (inside the ship’s grand piano). More deaths follow while everyone’s stranded in the City by the Bay, pending investigation.

The book’s mood is straight out of a snappy 1930s movie, and none the worse for it. Prominent among the cast, for instance, is a couple strikingly reminiscent of “The Thin Man’s” Nick and Nora Charles (right down to their dog, Asthma). Don’t blink, or you’ll miss the passing reference to a certain newspaper music critic named “Melissa Bargroom.”

Seattle writer Adam Woog’s column on mystery and crime fiction appears on the second Sunday of the month in The Seattle Times.