Murder Midst The Ferns

TITLE: THE SECRET HISTORY

AUTHOR: DONNA TARTT

PUBLISHER: KNOPF; 524 PAGES; $23

THE BOTTOM LINE: The novel that has everything: chills, thrills, campus scandals, literary jokes.

What are you doing up here? said Bunny, surprised, when he found the four of us waiting for him.

Why, looking for new ferns, said Henry.

Then, with Henry leading the ambush, Bunny's buddies push him down to his death in a ravine. A quick look round for dropped keys or glasses. "Everybody got everything?"

This little shocker is just the beginning of a long, ambitious first novel by a young Mississippian. The publisher has...

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