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As Carrie tries to define her role as the grieving almost-spouse from her frozen emotions for her once-beloved, the whole situation overwhelms her. Without telling a soul, she flees to New York to start a new life. Unfortunately, the guilt her decision causes follows and festers. While this storyline of broken necks and broken hearts might seem like a formula for sentimental bombast, Packer's understated style and beautiful use of description allows the reader to follow Carrie's intense psychological self-scrutiny and grief without feeling overcome by melodrama. Carrie's photographic memory and deep moral questioning allow for a novel that searches for honest answers and unveils an entertaining, though often self-involved, character and her world.

— Mathias Svalina

Forgery and Intrigue

Simon Worrall's debut, "The Poet and the Murderer," (Dutton, $23.95) wraps the true story of the fake Dickinson poem around an exploration of the career of master forger (and murderer) Mark Hoffmann, who had an uncanny ability to meld his mind and his hand with those of the literary and historical figures whose work he was forging.

Hoffmann forged so much and did it so well that his work is still for sale on the Internet and in stores that specialize in manuscripts and autographs. Hoffmann forged the signatures of Daniel Boone, Jack London and Betsy Ross, for example. And when he was not forging for money, he was forging to attack the Mormon Church: A lapsed and angry Mormon, Hoffmann spent his life forging documents he hoped would undermine that church.

Eventually, his greed, his chutzpah and his basic amorality undid him when he tried to cover up his forgeries by committing murder. By the time Worrall began his book, Hoffmann had been convicted and locked up.

This book overflows with the details of how Hoffman forged his masterpieces and with insight into why Hoffman subverted his own brilliance. The fact that he has to do some tricky maneuvering to reflect his title and bring the story back to Dickinson in the end does little to sidetrack the reader.

"The Poet and the Murderer" will have broad appeal to fans of intriguing mysteries as well as to fans of the "Belle of Amherst." And surprising as it may seem, both will find it satisfying. — Don Dale

Heads Up:

Curt Autry, the local anchorman for Fox 35 and NBC-12, will read from his mystery novel, "The Reunion," at the Barnes & Noble in Brandermill on Friday, July 12, at 7 p.m. Copies of the book will be available for purchase. For more information call 744-3245.


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