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Originally published Sunday, March 10, 2013 at 4:29 AM

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Crime fiction from Sicily and Britain, and true tales of famous corpses

New in crime fiction: a new Sicilian mystery by Andrea Camilleri; two books by veteran Brit authors Robert Wilson and Jo Bannister; a new Sherlock Holmes homage; and true tales about famous corpses by Seattle author Bess Lovejoy.

Special to The Seattle Times

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Crime fiction

Andrea Camilleri’s“The Dance of the Seagull” (Penguin paperback original, 277 pp., $15, translated by Stephen Sartarelli) is the latest in his quirky series about Sicilian Inspector Salvo Montalbano, his colorful colleagues, and the fictional town of Vigata.

(The author is so popular In Italy that his hometown, on which Vigata is based, officially added “Vigata” to its name.)

Camilleri’s style walks a fine line between the serious and the comic. As for the serious stuff: Montalbano’s right-hand man is kidnapped while working a case, alerting Montalbano to a smuggling operation and some scary mafia guys.

And the comic? Well, for one thing it appears that everyone in Vigata — friends and strangers alike — is chronically crabby and prone to irritated (but highly entertaining) conversation.

Veteran British writer Robert Wilson (“A Small Death in Lisbon”) is back with a gripping new thriller: “Capital Punishment”(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 416 pp., $28).

Charles Boxer, ex-cop and soldier, is a private operative specializing in resolving kidnappings. His services are called on when the daughter of a shady Indian zillionaire is taken off a London street for murky reasons — the kidnappers apparently don’t want money.

The story line quickly expands to include all sorts of wild stuff: London gangsters, international terrorists, global financial shenanigans, and much more. The huge cast of characters and complex plot threaten to swamp this lengthy book at times, but overall Wilson keeps tight control of his material.

British writer Jo Bannister’s“Deadly Virtues” (Minotaur, 272 pp., $24.99) is a police procedural with a fascinating twist. In the sleepy town of Norbold, a brilliant young black man, jailed for a minor offense, is killed in his cell by a vicious thug nicknamed Barking Mad.

As it happens, the village eccentric, a hermit called Ash, is also in jail and hears the victim’s last words — words that prove to be a coded message about some real nastiness. Enter rookie cop Hazel Best, who gets through Ash’s formidable psychological defenses — and learns his surprising secrets — to question the official version of the young man’s death.

The cottage industry in Sherlock Holmes pastiche continues to thrive, and one of the best recent offerings is Donald Thomas’ pitch-perfect “Death on a Pale Horse” (Pegasus, 353 pp., $25.95).

The Great Detective himself doesn’t show up in the book right away. First, we get the story of a (real-life) ambush of British soldiers by Zulu warriors in 1879. This is followed by a first-person account by Holmes’ sidekick Dr. Watson of his time as a young military doctor in Afghanistan, when he hears a tale about a real cad — the disgraced Colonel Moran.

Flash-forward to the time of Holmes’ and Watson’s partnership: Moran has joined forces with the detective’s nemesis, Professor Moriarty, to put into action a (what else?) thoroughly evil plan.

Bonus: Holmes’ older brother Mycroft, a brilliant puppet-master for the British spy service, has a juicy role in this ripping tale of Holmes’ foray into international espionage.

And now for something completely different: Seattle writer Bess Lovejoy’s nonfiction “Rest in Pieces” (Simon & Schuster, 352 pp., $22) is a collection of briskly told tales about the strange fates of famous corpses (or portions thereof) — in other words, catnip for aficionados of the offbeat (your reviewer included).

Some of these stories may be familiar: Einstein’s peripatetic brain, Lord Byron’s heart, Ted Williams’ frozen head. Others may be less well known: Napoleon’s most tender organ, for instance, or the bizarre (but somehow inspiring) account of the epic effort to transport the explorer David Livingstone’s body from Africa to Europe.

Bess Lovejoy will host a book release party for “Rest in Pieces” at 7 p.m. Tuesday March 12 at the Rendezvous Restaurant/JewelBox Theater, 2322 2nd Ave., Seattle. Presented by the Stranger and the University Book Store (206-634-3400 or ubookbore.com). Note: 21 and over only.

Adam Woog’s column on crime and mystery fiction appears on the second Sunday of the month in The Seattle Times.

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