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A stack decked with intrigue

June 05, 2005|Scott Martelle | Times Staff Writer

Depending on how booksellers stock their shelves, this could be the summer when Harry meets Sally.

J.K. Rowling's sixth book of wizardry, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," looks to be the dominant fun read of the beach season when it's released July 16. But bestselling mystery writer Janet Evanovich will be back too, with "Eleven on Top," a Stephanie Plum murder mystery that again includes the oddball character Sally Sweet -- cross-dressing rock guitarist by night, school bus driver by day.

In fact, summer seems to be murder season. Top-seller Sandra Brown's "Chill Factor" traces a series of disappearances in backwoods North Carolina, and Newport Beach's Dean Koontz releases "Velocity," in which a Napa bartender is manipulated by an unseen villain who forces him to pick his victims.

In "Fire Sale," Sara Paretsky's detective V.I. Warshawski fills in for her old high school basketball coach on Chicago's South Side, and suddenly is on the trail of a missing student and a saboteur at a flag factory.

Summer reads wouldn't be summer reads without heavy doses of sex and ambition, a bill filled this year by Jessica Cutler's "The Washingtonienne," a roman a clef based on Cutler's 2004 blog detailing the sexual intrigues on Capitol Hill -- "Hollywood for the ugly," as Cutler's alter ego describes it.

The real Hollywood gets the treatment in "The Starter Wife" by real-life Hollywood wife Gigi Levangie Grazer (her husband is producer Brian Grazer) and author of "Maneater" and screenwriter for the movie "Stepmom." Here, Gracie Pollock gets dumped in a cellphone call from her movie-mogul husband, spinning her out of what had been a comfortable orbit.

Melissa Bank returns with her much-anticipated follow-up to "The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing." In "The Wonder Spot," Sophie Applebaum moves into adulthood and New York City in a search for identity that captures the wonder of even the most ordinary moments of life and love.

And for an up and comer, British writer Tilly Bagshawe takes a stab at joining Jackie Collins and Danielle Steel with "Adored," about a Hollywood family driven by -- what else? -- sex, greed and treachery.

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