BOOKS: MURDER MOST FEMALE

THE GASLIGHT GANG FROM THE ALIENIST IS BACK--BUT THIS TIME PURSUING A CHILD-KILLING WOMAN

Caleb Carr's gaslit narrative style has gained a touch of weight since his agreeable turn-of-the-century detective novel The Alienist (1994), but perhaps no more than success justifies. The reader is inclined to nod indulgently--at the new novel's 629 pages, at the rustle of the writer's smoking jacket and at the swirl of the great man's brandy. That's the illusion--author as Basil Rathbone--that Carr, 42, persuades us to believe in.

He works hard at making The Angel of Darkness (Random House; $25.95) as impudent and beguiling as The Alienist and for the most part succeeds. The old gang is back: Miss Howard,...

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