Notable Books of the Year 1991

Published: December 01, 1991
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THE KILLING OF THE SAINTS. By Alex Abella. (Crown, $19.) A strange and powerful first novel, narrated by a court investigator and written in an ornate style, about the Cuban-American subculture in Los Angeles.

MAXIMUM BOB. By Elmore Leonard. (Delacorte, $20.) Mr. Leonard outdoes himself in his 29th novel, in which Maximum Bob, a crackpot judge in Palm Beach County, Florida, tries to get rid of his wife with two personalities by bringing an alligator home.

PASTIME. By Robert B. Parker. (Putnam, $19.95.) In this unexpectedly moving book, the 18th of Robert B. Parker's Spenser detective novels, we get glimpses of the righteous detective's childhood and his initiation into manhood.

PRIOR CONVICTIONS. By Lia Matera. (Simon & Schuster, $17.95.) Willa Jansson, one of the most articulate and surely the wittiest of women sleuths at large in the genre, finds herself compromised in a securities fraud case involving 60's radicals.

RUMPOLE A LA CARTE. By John Mortimer. (Viking, $18.95.) The eighth collection of stories about the barrister; that they continue to be so enjoyable is a mark of both the author's craftsmanship and his natural talent.

A SCANDAL IN BELGRAVIA. By Robert Barnard. (Scribners, $17.95.) A shocking tale of murder and corruption in which Mr. Barnard never loses control of his polished form.

THE SHADOW OF THE SHADOW. By Paco Ignacio Taibo 2d. (Viking, $18.95.) This spellbinding novel, which takes place in Mexico City in 1922, is about a little band of intellectuals caught up in a political conspiracy.

THE SONG DOG. By James McClure. (Mysterious Press/Warner, $17.95.) In a fresh-as-paint prequel, set in 1962, we learn how the author's ratchet-tongued South African detective, Lieut. Tromp Kramer, met his Zulu partner, Sgt. Mickey Zondi.

Current Affairs and Social Commentary

BACKLASH: The Undeclared War Against American Women. By Susan Faludi. (Crown, $24.) A bracing look, by a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, at the reaction against women's progress -- led, she argues, by a shrewd coalition of conservative forces, abetted by movie makers, writers and journalists.

THE BEAUTY MYTH: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women. By Naomi Wolf. (Morrow, $21.95.) A sweeping, vigorous book about the ways women enslave themselves -- and their bank accounts -- to an industry that promises physical perfection.