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Mystery lovers who are looking for good plots and likable characters, but would rather bypass the graphic violence and sex that make up so much of the genre, have a lot to celebrate right now. Like the return of Lee Martin's Policewoman Deb Ralston and Anne Wingate's Police Chief Mark Shigata and Policeman Al Quinn in new adventures.

The fact that Martin and Wingate happen to live in Salt Lake City is just an added bonus.I can never resist a Deb Ralston story. Who but this quirky officer could survey a man flopped dead over his computer - obviously murdered, since his skull is bashed in - and go off on a tangent about her own husband's hobbies and the money they've spent over the years on "toys" like his computer?

So begins "Hacker," due on bookshelves this month. And Deb's meandering aside, one wonders: Was the intended victim the man or the computer?

Within a very short time, the intrepid Deb has latched onto a stray teenager and enfolded him in her hectic household, despite the fact that he's quite possibly the guy who applied the axe to the victim's head. Then another body turns up, also dead over a computer. Deb figures there must be a connection, proving she's a real detective.

The reader is swept along as Ralston balances her investigation with the need to take care of her family (which includes a very young baby), help a friend whose daughter is in a coma and keep track of her young house guest/

suspect. When it's finally sorted out, things are abundantly clear - almost inevitable - yet still come as a surprise.

When it comes to likable characters, offbeat, believable Deb Ralston is my choice.

In "Exception to Murder," Shigata and Quinn have a little problem. The city councilwoman has just been discovered dead and half-consumed in the alligator pit of a religious theme park she has tried to shut down. The obnoxious Rev. Clifford Hobby believes someone is trying to discredit his television ministry by killing the woman and leaving her there.

Steve Hansen, a professor who likes to play sleuth, joins Shigata and Quinn in their search for the truth when the mystery hits close to home and endangers their own families.

Readers are taken on a twisting, tumbling journey into a world where kidnapping, murder and smuggling are all expedient. They also get to explore the magic recesses of a theme park, every former kid's secret dream.

Both books combine plotting and suspense with characters you'd love to have over for a back-yard barbecue. Ralston and Shigata should be around for a long time.