THE ALCHEMIST'S PURSUIT
Because Duncan uses mysteries as his model, each book in the Nostradamus fantasy series is complete in and of itself, and the charming little puzzle in this third installment is no exception. Again Duncan takes us to his slightly fantastical Venice, which has more magic than the original and just as much intrigue.
Old and infirm Nostradamus has no interest in finding out who killed courtesan Lucia, mentor to his apprentice Alfeo's lover Violetta, until it becomes obvious not only that Violetta can pay well but that the murder is one of an ongoing series. The pair soon learns that Lucia's murder was part of something important enough to attract the attention of the most powerful men in Venice.
When the Council of Ten intervenes to prevent Nostradamus from taking too close a look at events once thought safely buried, the cunning old man and his less cunning but brave apprentice must find a loophole in the Ten's commands and discover what's behind the killings in time to save the next victim, Violetta herself. (ACE, Mar., 320 pp., $15.00)