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Femme bookend: Chicklit queen on a gritty chase

Casey Hill, the author of Taboo, is actually Irish chicklit queen Melissa Hill writing with husband, Kevin.

Melissa is far away from her usual romantic pink in this gritty thriller about FBI investigator Reilly Steel, a star investigator on loan to the Garda Forensic Unit.

Reilly is in Ireland for another reason: her alcoholic father, riven by the loss of his other daughter, Jess, has run from home and is living in a miserable Dublin flat, with the company only of his trusty whiskey bottle.

No one in the gardai believes Reilly's theory that a series of gruesome and nasty murders are linked -- except Chris Delaney, the detective who joins Reilly in a theory that they're based on Freud's studies.

It's not until the murders come close to home that Reilly's investigation begins to bite.

The Chicklit

A gentle melancholy haunts The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, an international bestseller by Aimee Bender.

Nine-year-old Rose finds that she can taste her mom's emotions. And mom isn't happy, despite her well-off good-provider husband, super-bright son and sweet daughter.

As Mom strays from hearth and home, and older brother Joseph stops being a genius and becomes merely talented -- and disturbed -- Rose's unwanted talent grows.

The story never really comes together, but this novel, in the style of stories like Chocolat, is a dreamy feast of gorgeous writing.

Bender has an unerring way with childhood -- when Rose's slightly demented grandmother sends a parcel with meaningful but weird presents, Rose treasures the frayed old dishcloth with its purple roses.

Gentle, beautiful, odd, this is a story to sip and savour.

The Big Non-Fiction

Story of Ireland by Neil Hegarty accompanies Fergal Keane's BBC and RTE co- production.

It's a new view of history, placing Ireland in a world context, from the influx of Viking farmers and traders to the effects of Cromwell, the penal laws, the Plantations -- and how these and the Famine sent Irish people abroad.

Hegarty uses on-the-spot reports, like Theobald Wolfe Tone's vivid descriptions of his negotiations in France.

At times it's disappointing -- the too-brief section on 1798 mentions the killings of Protestants in a burning barn in Scullabogue but not the lynching of suspects in Dunlavin, for instance.

But its modern chapters then cover the Northern war and go on into the vast changes that made the modern Republic a wealthy (briefly) European democracy.

Everyone should read this.