January 27, 1997 12:00 PM

by Amanda Cross

Page-Turner of the Week

If your New Year’s reading resolutions call for less splatter and more gray matter, look no further than these literate puzzlers. Featuring Kate Fansler, the scholarly sleuth of whose tart tongue and fine moral sensibility Jane Austen would surely have approved, the 10 tales here are as tonic as a palate-cleansing sorbet.

Most of the stories by Cross, nom de potboiler for Columbia University humanities professor Carolyn G. Heilbrun, spotlight Fansler’s literary smarts, but what makes these morsels so satisfying are the rich psychological nuggets and bons mots. In “Who Shot Mrs. Byron Boyd?” she notes that in the view of one macho character, “dames over thirty-five were like Australia: Everyone knew it was down there and nobody gave a damn.” (Ballantine, $19.95)

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