Books: He Dunit

COLD HEAVEN by Brian Moore Holt, Rinehart & Winston; 265 pages; $14.95

A native of Belfast, Brian Moore has a special talent for pungent portraiture of those Irish men and women who are, as James Joyce put it, "outcast from life's feast": desperate spinsters, failed priests, drunken poets—and expatriates, like Moore himself. But as the distance between Moore and his homeland widened, he produced, under the pseudonyms Michael Bryan and Bernard Marrow, some lamentable whodunits. By way of apology he once explained: "I tried to write as an American."

Moore, 62, is still trying to write as an American. Cold Heaven, his 13th...

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