`Trouble in Paradise'

By Robert B. ParkerPutnam; 336 pages; $22.95.

With "Trouble in Paradise," Robert B. Parker continues a series begun in "Night Passage," and Jesse Stone, a reforming alcoholic policeman who's left L.A. for Paradise, Mass., is the series' Spenser - younger, randier, less literate but just as smart, just as tough and able to walk a straight moral line through a zigzag society.

In some ways the Stone series will be reassuring to the people who have read the more than two dozen Spenser books that Parker has written over the years. Many things are the same - the momentum, the sense of place and time, the tough-guy dialogue that women speak with equal ease, the sharp social commentary, the psychological penetration, the compassion for those to whom life has dealt a bad hand.

Robert B. Parker is loaded for bear this time - or, as Spenser might have put it, he's loaded every rift with ore.

- By Richard Dyer

The Boston Globe

`Death in Summer'

By William Trevor

Viking; 214 pages; $23.95.

In his 1995 novel, "Felicia's Journey," touted as his breakaway literary thriller into the mainstream, the Irish virtuoso William Trevor rendered a serial killer with as much care and intimacy as one might arrange flowers from the garden.

Beloved for years as a master builder of the modern English story, Trevor has a way of forcing collisions between character and circumstance. Rather than merely fortunate endings, we are afforded truth.

So it is with "Death in Summer," a spare novel chillingly reminiscent of "Felicia's Journey" but also of Henry James' foray into Gothic. Like James, Trevor attends to but then transcends the ordinary conventions of suspense; like James, he is more concerned with the dark anticipation of moral consequence: Just how far will bad people go?

The book is neither so taut nor so heartbreaking as "Felicia's Journey," but it has the hue of vintage Trevor - the perfectly crafted sentences, the insights into the human condition that are rare and breathtakingly charitable. For all his keen understanding of the world's meanness, he also captures the terrain of those paths of darkness - the stones and rainstorms that make one follow certain turns in the road.

- By Gail Caldwell

The Boston Globe

`A Home in the Heart of a City'

By Kathleen Hirsch

North Point Press; 244 pages; $24.

The heart of Boston's Jamaica Plain, a diverse bustle of a place in the center of the city, can be found in the lank grass and bent willow of Jamaica Pond, or the caramel-colored booths at Doyle's pub, or the interplay of language and culture in Hyde Square.

Annexed to Boston in 1865, scarred by a ghost highway and sapped by middle-class flight, it nevertheless held on stubbornly. Journalist Kathleen Hirsch documents this holding fast and this history, musing on the politics of place and doing up "the grand old buttons of a community's life."

Although Hirsch's son is young, she knows the thorniest choices of all await her - public school or private? Moss Hill or Chestnut Hill? Community cannot take root if young families flee.

It will be interesting to see if Hirsch decides to stay, and which path she chooses for her son, assuming she has the means to choose.

- By Ellen Clegg

The Boston Globe