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SEMIAUTOMATIC

Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Author, Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Illustrator
Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Author, Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Illustrator . Random $24.95 (256p) ISBN 0-375-50502-4
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A starred or boxed review indicates a book of outstanding quality. A review with a blue-tinted title indicates a book of unusual commercial interest that hasn't received a starred or boxed review.

SEMIAUTOMATIC Robert Reuland . Random , $24.95 (256p) ISBN 0-375-50502-4

Assistant District Attorney Andrew Giobberti makes a return appearance in this second novel by Reuland (Hollowpoint ), in which a ghetto murder is spun into a complex, shadowy courtroom showdown. As the novel begins, Giobberti is living out a deadeningly quiet bureaucratic exile in the sleepy appeals office of the Brooklyn DA. His career hit a brick wall after the events of the earlier novel: the death of his daughter, his subsequent estrangement from his wife and the personal collapse that led to a botched homicide prosecution. So Gio is confused, suspicious and guardedly grateful when a former underling appears in his office and makes him an offer he can't refuse: Giobberti can return to the Homicide office if he'll prosecute the accused murderer of a Brooklyn bodega owner. After that, moral and narrative ambiguity take over as Giobberti tries to sort out why the DA wants him on this case. He knows something's wrong, but no one's revealing anything, not even Laurel Ashfield, the straitlaced, by-the-book junior DA who had the case before it was dropped in Giobberti's lap. Reuland avoids by-the-numbers storytelling and die-cut morality, tracing a tortuous path through the Brooklyn underworld and tossing off impolitic remarks with a studied carelessness ("Brooklyn killers do not deserve long stories. Brooklyn killers have no imagination. Brooklyn killers are the dumbest killers in the world"). There's a redemption story thinly camouflaged under the procedural tangle, giving this noirish legal thriller grace and gravitas. (June)

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