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Book Report: A triple treat this week

Here are two good reads to take on your last trip to the cabin up north.

The first is "Beautiful Malice," by Australian author Rebecca James (Bantam, $25). We're introduced to Katharine Patterson, a mysterious character who wishes to cast off her past and moves to a new city, changes her name and enrolls in a new school.

Why? As the book opens, Katharine says she has some regrets for not attending her friend Alice's funeral. Alice was the woman Katharine met during her new life. Alice was the flip side of Katharine: Gregarious, beautiful, the center of attention. But by the time the book opens she is dead and Katharine says she hates even the memory of Alice.

Why? Find out in this multi-layered story by first-time novelist James.

Sally Koslow's "With Friends Like These" (Ballantine Books, $25) is being touted the beach blanket woman's book of the summer. Koslow, who has worked for years for a women's magazine has cooked up a tempting plot, in which several young women of varying backgrounds rent a Manhattan apartment together in the 1990s.

Years later, their paths cross again and we have a set of complex relationships between an actress, the wife of a hedge fund manager, etc., etc. Matters of course get tangled up and Koslow handles the contretemps with aplomb.

In many ways this lighthearted book reminds me of another book of a heavier nature written years ago, Mary McCarthy's "The Group."

Of regional as well as national interest, we have a book about a famous Minnesotan just out from Oxford University Press. "The Flight of the Century," by Thomas Kessner ($27.95), is yet another biography of the "Lone Eagle from Little Falls," Charles Lindbergh.

When I first received the book, I thought, "Enough already. Haven't we read enough books about the man who flew the Atlantic and then got himself in all sorts of trouble; his son's kidnapping; his leadership of the America First movement; and his final eccentric days?"

But Kessner manages to dig up much more that I never knew about Lindbergh. He's very good on Lindbergh's parentage, a mismatched marriage if ever there was one. His mother was a Detroit socialite, his father a rough hewn lawyer politician from the sticks. Old man Lindbergh was a cold fish; his wife was not a little bit crazy.

And then it's on to the flight that captured the world's imagination, a remarkable achievement, but one that Lucky Lindy was not prepared to cope with, undereducated and retiring as he was. So what does he do? He marries Anne Morrow, a socialite with a diplomatic and Wall Street background. This was no marriage made in Little Falls, either, though they stuck together through thick and thin until almost the end.

Then came the 1930s and Lindbergh's flirtation with Nazi Germany. I've always figured Lindbergh took an isolationist stance because he figured the U.S. and the European democracies were no match for Germany. It turns out the reasons were much more complicated than that. Apparently Lindbergh was worried about threats from the Orient and thought that the races there were inferior to Anglo-Saxon stock and that Germany could handle them.

But the Axis pact was signed and Lindbergh began his slow ascent back to political respectability by flying all manner of missions against the enemy.

The war over, Lindbergh carried on two affairs, the first with a German woman, who bore him children, and second the German woman's sister, who also bore him children.

Kessner's book is a fascinating amalgam of the biography of a complicated man and the age in which he lived, the age of flight.

Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 715-426-9554.