By
December 24, 2001 12:00 PM

by Diana Gabaldon

No, this isn’t a book about the Ku Klux Klan. Burning crosses were once a Highland Scots symbol that had nothing to do with racism. But the misleading title of this epic about a 20th-century woman in 1770s North Carolina is the least of this novel’s problems. It’s a 350-page story that spills across 979 pages.

In the fifth installment of a wildly successful series, Scottish laird-turned-colonial-landholder Jamie Fraser, joined by his time-traveling British wife, Claire, a former “WWII nurse, helps end the real-life Regulator War. Gabaldon is obsessed by extraneous detail (we learn way too much about lactation and poopy diapers) but doesn’t enlighten new readers as to who the characters are, how they got to the colonies and why we should care. Claire, who has morphed into an amalgam of Dr. Quinn and Patricia Cornwell’s medical examiner Kay Scarpetta, has lots of hot sex when the plot isn’t venturing into murders, rampaging wild animals and a ho-hum whodunit. The most memorable parts are the typos: “sausage on a girdle,” anyone? (Delacorte, $27.95)

Bottom Line: Smoke but no fire

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