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Books: Leisure reading

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'Washington'

By Meg Greenfield

Public Affairs, $26.

This book is a primer for those who wonder what life inside the capital is really like. It's also a window on the extraordinary, elusive woman who wrote it. Meg Greenfield was the dean of Washington journalists for 40 years, writing stimulating commentaries for The Washington Post and Newsweek until her death just recently.

Interestingly, Greenfield never told anyone she was writing this book. She slipped the electronic manuscript to historian Michael Beschloss on her deathbed. With such secrecy, it could be suspected that the book is a "tell all" on all the people she knew in Washington, including eight presidents.

Rather, it is a thoughtful, witty, detached look at the people and the city she loved, a fitting climax to the life of a fine writer. — Dennis Lythgoe


'A Heart of Stone'

By Renate Dorrestein

Viking, $23.95.

Renate Dorrestein is well-known in her native Holland. With this new translation of her 1998 novel — recently selected as a Book of the Month Club alternate — she will soon gain a following here in the United States.

"A Heart of Stone" is the tender, terrifying and mysterious story of the disintegration of a happy family. It is told through flashbacks, told through the eyes of Ellen, who is now an adult. She plunges into the past through a faded photo album and finds the ghosts of her childhood.

Ellen is beguiling but obviously emotionally damaged. Gradually, deftly, Dorrestein shows us why. — Susan Whitney


'The Mysterious Press Anniversary Anthology'

By the editors of Mysterious Press

Mysterious Press, $25.

This press is widely regarded as the country's most distinguished publisher of mystery, crime and suspense fiction. Now that it has been in business for 25 years, there is reason to assemble the very best offerings by the very best suspense writers in the business. So the editors commissioned 18 of their finest writers to write short stories for this collection.

The anthology includes stories by Donald E. Westlake, Beth Saulnier, Marcia Muller, Ed McBain, Archer Mayor, William Marshall, Margaret Maron, Peter Lovesey, Joe R. Landsdale, Stuart M. Kaminsky, Robert Greer, Joe Gores, Loren D. Estleman, Lindsey Davis, Jerome Charyn, Carlotte Carter, James Crumley and M.C. Beaten.

The result is a wonderful collection that adequately commemorates 25 years of outstanding stories. It also establishes Mysterious Press as the focal point of suspense fiction. — Dennis Lythgoe