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Hugo Chavez by Richard Gott (Verso paperback). All I knew about Chavez was that he was president of Venezuela, had P.O.'d the White House, and had survived attempts to overthrow him. But when Pat Robertson said he'd like to see Chavez killed, I had to know more. Gott, a former Latin American reporter for the U.K.'s Guardian, is an engaging writer who presents a relatively positive profile of Chavez and his background, policies and beliefs. Chavez, a former coup leader, morphed into a populist, diverting oil money to Venezuela's ordinary citizens, enraging the ruling class there, and building an image as the continent's new Simon Bolivar. Oil companies, and the US government, naturally, see him as a meddling commie. -- John Grooms

Cruisers by Craig Nova (Vintage paperback). Cruisers is a fascinating book -- a literary work, based on a true story, that subtly veers in and out of being a noir genre novel. A Vermont state trooper and a computer repairman who's gone mental move gradually but inevitably toward a violent rendezvous, but although you know what's coming, the way Nova unfolds his characters' pasts and inner lives -- both men have been damaged in different ways by extreme violence in their family histories -- make the book hard to put down. -- Dana Renaldi

Dead Run by P.J. Tracy (Putnam). The third in this mystery/suspense series by a mother-daughter writing team is made more chilling by the fact that we are vulnerable to domestic terrorism. Grace MacBride and her "family," now augmented by her cop boyfriend and faithful dog, debuted in Monkeewrench, which you need to read to make sense of why these people are so close and would die for each other. Here, some of the coincidences in the plot probably are a bit far-fetched, but the characters are so likeable you want them to succeed. -- Ann Wicker

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