Southern Cross
                                           by Patricia Daniels Cornwell
                                           ASIN: 039914465X
                                           Putnam Pub Group
                                           Hardcover - 352 pages
                                          Click here for more information
                          In their first appearance (Hornet's Nest, 1997), Chief Judy Hammer,
                          Deputy Virginia West, and reporter-turned-rookie-cop Andy Brazil battled a
                          serial killer in Charlotte, North Carolina. Now, in Patricia Cornwell's
                          Southern Cross, the trio are dispatched to Richmond, Virginia--via an NIJ
                          (National Institute of Justice) grant--to quell the growing gang problem and
                          modernize the beleaguered Richmond PD. They bring with them a
                          sophisticated computer program for tracking criminal activity and a
                          tried-and-true methodology for reforming Richmond's men and women in
                          blue. Unfortunately, Hammer, Brazil, and West could not have been
                          prepared for the resentment they would confront... or the bizarre cast of
                          characters they would find upon their arrival: Lelia Ehrhart--wealthy (and
                          nosey) chair of the Blue Ribbon Crime Commission--whose heavy
                          European accent renders her English dangerously hilarious; Butner "Bubba"
                          Flunk IV--tobacco industry worker, gun collector, and UFO aficionado;
                          Smoke--the sociopathic leader of the Pikes gang; and Weed
                          Gardener--14-year-old painter turned master graffiti artist.

                          Unlike Cornwell's usual fare, Southern Cross is driven almost exclusively by
                          an interest in these strange personalities and their surreal hometown, rather
                          than in fast-paced thrills. The novel becomes a satire on city politics,
                          Southern culture, the ever-tense relationship between the police and the
                          public, and the struggles of the average man and woman with computer
                          technology. Cornwell does fall down in a few places. First, her description
                          of the computer virus that somehow infects police department Web sites
                          from Richmond to New York seems a bit far-fetched. Also, her narrative,
                          divided among three major characters, loses its focus and sags at several
                          points. In the end, though, Southern Cross is redeemed by Cornwell's
                          inimitable renderings of police work and the quotidian life of Richmond's
                          many odd denizens. --Patrick O'Kelley

                                           Seize the Night
                                           by Dean R. Koontz
                                           ASIN: 0553106651
                                           Bantam Doubleday Dell Pub (Trd)
                                           Hardcover - 384 pages
                                          Click here for more information
                          Chris Snow, the light-phobic, oddball hero of Dean Koontz's Fear Nothing,
                          is once again caught in the middle of something ugly. The children (and
                          pets) of Moonlight Bay, California, are disappearing. The first to go is
                          Jimmy Wing, the son of Snow's former girlfriend, Lilly. Then Snow's own
                          hyper-intelligent dog goes missing. Snow decides that he will find them, but
                          what he uncovers is more than just a simple kidnapping; before he can turn
                          back, he's up against an age-old vendetta, an active time machine, and a
                          genetic experiment gone awry.

                          Seize the Night offers up the same eclectic mix of characters that appeared
                          in Fear Nothing: boardhead Bobby, disc jockey Sasha, Snow, and all of
                          their friends band together to find the missing kids and figure out why the
                          people of Moonlight Bay are morphing into demonic versions of their
                          former selves. They outsmart corrupt cops, outrun genetically enhanced
                          monkeys, and outlive a time warp with a vengeance--all between nightfall
                          and sunrise, the only time that Snow can be outside.

                          Though the premise is a little bit hard to believe, and the surf lingo
                          occasionally irritating, Seize the Night is ultimately fun to read. Koontz
                          successfully draws you in and keeps you entertained through an unexpected
                          climax and an enlightening resolution. --Mara Friedman