IN Carnage of the Realm (Crown, $8.95), Edwin George, the wise and witty librarian-cum-amateur sleuth, is back, two years after his debut in the fetchingly titled Dewey Decimated. Over the telephone from his home in Alexandria, author Charles A. Goodrum, who retired last year as director of planning and policies for the Library of Congress, sounds much like George's alter-ego - an urbane bookman with a lively curiosity and sprightly humor. Like his hero, he embraced computerization only to have second thoughts, particularly about its reliability in library operations. As the sleuths discover while following a hot clue, computers can shut down without warning, for a "30-second hiccup or the rest of the week."
Carnage of the Realm finds George and two of his young colleagues (a graduate scholar and a library public relations assistant) trying to dig up a motive for the murder of the president of a numismatic club that meets at Gadsby's Tavern in Alexandria. Despite computer hiccups, they retrieve enough information to root out the culprit. It's a stylish, literate mystery.
REX STOUT IMPISHLY suggested once - and, for that matter, made a rather convincing case before startled Sherlockians - that Watson was a woman. So he probably would not have been too upset to find his Archie Goodwin transformed into a Wetchester County matron with Bloomingdale boots and his Nero Wolfe pared down to a tall, lanky newspaper editor.
The publishers of Lucille Kallen's Introducing C. B. Greenfield (Crown, $7.95) invite the comparison. The book's amateur sleuths are Greenfield, editor of a small suburban weekly, and Maggie Rome, his part-time reporter, who serves as "legman" for Greenfield's thought processes much as Archie functions for Wolfe. However, such comparisons can be ignored, and it is enough to say that Introducing C. B. Greenfield is an amiable first-mystery about a hit-an-run accident whcih leaves a newspaper delivery boy badly injured.
THE BOOK JACKET describes Just Desserts (Scribners, $7.95) as a "comedy thriller," which seems as good a description as any for the eccentric mysteries of Tim Heald, who mixes the madcap with murder. In his latest misadventure our reluctant hero, Simon Bognor, finds himself in the world of haute cuisine, which should be a lovely dish topped with Heald's saucy humor. But this time around, the fare turns out to a trifle heavy, and Simon's bumbling is wearying after a while. It could be that long cricket match, which may be uproariously funny for British readers but is as flat as a fallen souffle to American taste.
INSPECTOR GHOTE, the harassed little policeman in H.R.F. Keating's mysterires, would be the one to get such a thankless assignment. In Inspector Ghote Draws a Line (Doubleday Crime Club, $7.95), he is sent from his Bombay post to a remote village in India to protect the life an acerbic old judge, who scorns Ghote, refuses to cooperate with the police, and won't produce the notes threatening his death on the 30th anniversary of his sentencing of anti-British revolutionaries. The Ghote adventures are for those readers who are content with a leisurely pace and don't begrudge moments for quiet humor and amusing characterization.
IT WAS FORTUNATE for Laura Crombie's bridge partners that they were counting calories as well as cards and resisted the French pastries. The maid, who loved sweets, took the eclairs home and soon was dead of botulism. The problem for Masao Masuto, the Nisei police detective, is to determine which of the four Beverly Hills divorcees was the intended victim in The Case of the Poisoned Eclairs (Holt, Rinehart & Wintson, $6.95). The discarded husbands with high alimony payments all have good motives, and Masuto, who loves to tend his roses and practice Zen Meditation, must sort out the untidy lives of wealthy, bored Hollywood couples. E. V. Cunningham (Howard Fast's mystery-writing pen-name) doesn't miss an irony in contrasting Masuto's search for quiet contentment with the frenetic pursuit of wealth and pleasure by the others.
SCRIBNER'S IS INAUGURATING a new Crime Classics series in paperback ($1.95 each) with the publication of three Judge Dee mysteries (Poets and Murder, Judge Dee at Work, The Phantom in the Temple) by the late Robert van Guilk, a Dutch diplomat whose research in Chinese history turned up the name of a 7th-century magistrate famous for his sleuthing skills. Van Gulik transformed Judge Dee into a fictional detective with scrupulour attention to the customs and background of the period and the classic Chinese story form. Coming up, in the series: S. S. Van Dine's The Canary Murder Case , A. E. W. Mason's At the Villa Rose , and another van Gulik.
A SOLID PIECE of police work comes from Collin Wilcox in Power Plays (Random House, $7.95). In this new case for Lt. Frank Hastings, a San Francisco homcide detective, a corpse with an icepick stab is found in the back seat of a car abandoned after a traffic accident. It is identified as the body of a former hot-shot Washington columnist who specialized in Jack Anderson-style exposes and was trying to retrieve his reputation by digging into a multi-million-dollar Pentagon arms swindle. Hastings and the columnist's daughter become the targets of hired killers in a fast-action finale.