From murder and intrigue to the audacious behavior of the boomers, these new titles run the gamut of ideas, serious and otherwise.
By Harlan Coben,
Delacorte Press, $22.95

When Dr. David Beck’s wife, his childhood sweetheart, was murdered one night eight years ago, Beck was also attacked and barely survived. He has never forgiven himself nor recovered from his loss. So when he is contacted by e-mail and presented with evidence that his wife is alive ...

The question in Edgar Award-winner Harlan Coben’s Tell No One is who is tormenting Beck, and why. The mystery will keep a reader turning pages, but the real and lasting pleasure of the book is its characters, especially Beck, whose patients are the forgotten, left-behind people from the world of drugs, welfare, and housing projects. In his moment of maximum peril, when Beck becomes the principal suspect in his wife’s murder, his rescuer is a dealer whose child’s life he once saved. They make an unlikely, and compelling, pair — and just one surprise in a book that is full of them. — G.N.
By Joe Queenan
Henry Holt and Company, $23

Last year, the author watched a Jeep Grand Cherokee cruise by his house, the driver nattering on a cell phone, while the driver’s trophy dog, an Alaskan malamute, trotted behind, pausing to leave his doggie calling cards. Who in the world, Queenan wondered, could be too lazy, too thoughtless, too self-absorbed to walk his dog properly? A member of the baby boom generation, that’s who.

Queenan, the boomer cultural critic and author of Red Lobster, White Trash, and the Blue Lagoon, offers this book as both mea culpa and j’accuse. Just what does he accuse his generation of? Preening self-absorption, greed, failure to live up to its promise, aversion to unpleasant truth, failure to age gracefully, and plain silliness.

As with Philip Wylie’s brilliant, blistering attack on an earlier bunch of boomers, Generation of Vipers (first published in 1942 and still in print), many readers will quibble; some will rage; some will decide the author is not in touch with his feelings. But like Wylie’s now classic book, this isn’t history, or even criticism. It’s a rant — caustic, outrageously funny, and, like that dog, occasionally on target. —
By John Keegan
Vintage Books, $10

John Keegan’s 14 books have earned him a worldwide reputation, and he was knighted a year ago for his distinguished contributions to military history. He has, as much as any contemporary writer, attempted to understand the nature of war.

In War and Our World — a slim volume, not even 100 pages — Keegan considers some of the great imponderables about his own fearful field. Is war a natural condition of humankind? Are we enslaved by genes that learned what they know fighting for territory on the African savannah? Does the state exist for war and depend on it for its health and survival? (Someone once said the modern state exists to do two things — wage war and inflate the currency.) Is there ever an end to war?

Keegan’s answers to these questions are sober and, still, hopeful. No sentimentalist, he applies his enlightened mind to wrestling with dark subjects. — G.N.
By James Lee Burke
Simon & Schuster, $25

Former Texas Ranger turned lawyer Billy Bob Holland is not your ordinary action- thriller hero. He holds regular conversations with a ghost, frets about his illegitimate son — is the boy getting enough rest? — and after bedding the occasional willing female, stops by a Catholic church for confession.

He needs all the help he can get in this twisted tale of mayhem and revenge. He’s up against motorcycle gangs, right-wing militia nuts, a Mafioso and his entourage, a besotted mystery novelist and his scheming wife, and a rodeo clown who is one of the spookiest villains this side of Hannibal Lecter. Burke excels at scenery — Montana here, rendered in glorious Technicolor — and when the going gets tough, Billy Bob pauses to cast a dry fly over a trout stream (the bad guys fish with worms).
As the shootings, beatings, and surprises keep coming, the pages keep turning, almost by themselves. Bitterroot is untidy and too full by half, but a good way to spend some summer evenings — unless there’s a trout stream nearby. —