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January 02, 1994|CHARLES SOLOMON

THE WINTER MURDER CASE by S.S. Van Dine (Otto Penzler/Macmillan: $6.95; 174 pp.). Originally published in 1939, but long out of print, "The Winter Murder Case" was the last Philo Vance mystery. As a detective, Vance resembles the suave Nick Charles, rather than the hard-boiled Sam Spade: He smokes Regie cigarettes and seems at home in the posh household of the millionaire-emerald collector Carrington Rexxon. "Winter Murder" remains a diverting yarn, 55 years after its initial appearance, and aspiring crime writers should study Van Dine's no-nonsense afterward, "Twenty Rules For Writing Detective Stories."

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