Twenty authors collaborate on one thriller, a guide to Phoenix hikes and more

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Take a Hike Phoenix: Hikes within Two Hours of the City

By Lilia Menconi

Avalon Travel

$16.99; 248 pages; outdoors

Phoenician Lilia Menconi has put together a readable handbook to hiking trails within a two-hour radius of our state capital. She's organized the guide by regions—five in the Phoenix area and one in the high country (Flagstaff, etc.). For each of the 80-plus trails, Menconi provides a map, photograph, driving directions, hike description, options for extended hikes, and regulations. She also offers difficulty ratings, from "butt-kickers" through "kid-friendly" and "wheelchair accessible."

Menconi has hiked each of the trails, and she injects a lively, engaged, personal perspective into her text.

Mrs. Earp: The Wives and Lovers of the Earp Brothers

By Sherry Monahan


$16.95; 153 pages; nonfiction

Among other things, Sherry Monahan, the incoming president of the Western Writers of America, is a specialist in the Victorian West and a genealogist. These qualify her to tell a mostly untold story—the women with whom the famous Earp brothers kept company. As she points out, life in the late-19th- century West went unregulated and under-reported. While Victorian standards of behavior were upheld on the U.S. coasts, they were pretty compromised in mining camps and boom towns such as Tombstone. Niceties weren't de rigueur. Wedding ceremonies were casual. And the Earps' relationships reflected the times.

For Mrs. Earp, Monahan consulted newspaper accounts, census reports, interviews, letters and the few books available to profile 11 women married to five Earps. Monahan organizes the book according to the quantity of material available, from best-covered Wyatt—with four wives—to the youngest (but not best-behaved) Earp, Warren, who was married once. She includes narratives on each wife, genealogies, period photographs and letters. Unfortunately, due to the dearth of records pertaining to the women, some of the wives remain in the shadows even as we learn a bit about their backgrounds.

Inherit the Dead

Edited by Jonathan Santlofer

Simon & Schuster

$25.99; 265 pages; fiction

Rock stars do it. Pro athletes do it. Celebrity chefs do it. So why shouldn't crime writers get together and perform for charity? Inherit the Dead is a single novel created by 20 different authors. The proceeds go to Safe Horizon, a national assistance agency for victims of violence. The writers have together sold millions of books, so giving them each one chapter in a 20-chapter thriller is a promising concept.

Inherit the Dead has a classic noir setup: a disaffected New York City police detective-turned-private investigator (honest and principled, but unfairly drummed out of the police force), is given a missing-person assignment that proves to be messy. Pericles ("Perry" to all but his mother) Christo is 44, unhappily divorced, and the father of a teenage girl he adores. His situation complicates the fact that the missing person is a young woman. Wealth and class come into play as this rumpled P.I. is called to the Park Avenue penthouse of an heiress and then to the Hamptons mansion of her divorced husband, in search of their daughter, who disappeared just before her crucial, come-into-inheritance, 21st birthday. It's dark and stormy, of course. There's an unnamed threat. The daughter is unbelievably beautiful. Somebody dies.

The book is entertaining. You can hear variation in the writers' voices, but they've managed a fairly consistent noir tone. Initially, the plot meanders, as if the writers are working on individual back stories, but you're glad to go along for the ride. By the time the action kicks in, you're in. And it does charge along, changing drivers while doing 70. Hey, it's fun. And for a good cause.

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