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The Train to Lo Wu by Jess Row (Dial Press paperback). Hong Kong serves as the enigmatic backdrop for the lonely foreigners who populate the seven stories in this well-crafted debut. Westerners are gwai, or ghosts, the Chinese word for a foreigner, and they move like specters through the city, unseen as if they were shrouded by the same fog into which the skyscrapers vanish. Connection with the natives is fraught with misunderstandings beyond the language barrier -- blindness, literal or figurative, is a recurring theme. In the best of these culture clashes, an unwitting American forces a blind elder to re-live the horrors of the Cultural Revolution to free him from a past he can never escape. Nevertheless, most of the characters emerge with a hard-won, Zen-like wisdom -- even if it's just the knowledge that Hong Kong is, for them, ultimately unknowable. ­-- J. Schacht

Suspect by Michael Robotham (Black Lizard paperback). London psychologist Joe O'Loughlin is diagnosed with Parkinson's and becomes the primary suspect in a murder case he's helping to solve. And that's just the beginning of this well-written murder/thriller that skillfully shades into a psychological suspense mystery. This is a fine addition to the tradition of falsely-accused-person mysteries, with 3-D characters and expert pacing. -- John Grooms

Death by Suburb by David L. Goetz (HarperSanFrancisco hardback). When I was asked to review this book, I thought it was about urban design and how sprawling suburbs kill cities. Not so. Here, former pastor David L. Goetz offers a Christian view of the lack of spirituality in the 'burbs. Since I don't live in the suburbs, drive an SUV, have children or go to church, I may not be the best person to evaluate his ideas. In the tradition of many religious leaders, Goetz is troubled by the materialistic, competitive ways of suburban life. He sees folks that are involved with church on some level but senses their spiritual dissatisfaction. The lessons he offers are couched in personal anecdotes about coping with life in the 'burbs, sprinkled with a few secular philosophers, Bible verses and polite exhortations to, as many ministers warn, "get right with God." Sort of a "fundamentalist lite" approach. -- Ann Wicker


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