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'Moonlight Downs'

By Adrian Hyland

Soho, $24

Emily Tempest, a feisty half-Aboriginal investigator, is back in her Australian community where she grew up, Moonlight Downs. She learns that Lincoln Flinders, the leader of the Moonlight Downs mob, has been murdered and mutilated. The first suspect is a renegade aboriginal sorcerer, whom she questions.

Afterward, she believes Blakie Japanangka is not the murderer. So she proceeds to build her case, uncertainly, because she is not sure if she belongs in the Aboriginal world or that of "the whitefellers."

Written by an Australian university professor in Melbourne, Hyland knows the lay of the land and the peculiarities of the culture. The Australian style of speech and the racially mixed community give it unique interest. Hyland is a promising writer.

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'Death of a Dutchman'

By Magdalen Nabb

Soho, $12 (softcover)

Magdalen Nabb, the author of a dozen in this investigation series, recently passed away. She began writing her books in 1981, and they have received critical acclaim, especially for Nabb's spare and elegant writing style.

This one focuses on an aged woman who hears mysterious noises next door and calls the investigator, who finds a dying Dutch jeweler.

The immediate question is did the jeweler return home to commit suicide? Or did he become the victim of a cunning murderer?

Soho, which published several of Nabb's books, has begun republishing her books in softcover. It is the first U.S. printing in two decades.

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'The Executor'

By Michael Kruger

Harcourt, $23

Michael Kruger is a poet, novelist and head of the German publishing house Hanser Verlag as well as editor of the journal Akzente. His books are written in German and translated into English by John Hargraves.

Kruger's intriguing writing style is sophisticated, and he does comedy especially well. The narrator in this work is called to Turin to resolve the will and literary estate of a famous writer and professor.

It is a complicated task, because the estate includes a menagerie of house pets (a goose, several ducks, tortoises, and a peacock — plus Caesar, an old dog). But there are also tons of books and research materials.

Allegedly, there is also the writer's magnum opus, quite possibly "the world's last novel," so he doesn't want to miss it.