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Originally published Sunday, May 13, 2012 at 5:00 AM

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Crime fiction: Seattle-area authors set their mysteries here, there and Cincinnati

New in crime fiction: engrossing reading by Seattle-area authors Bharti Kirchner, William Dietrich, Bernadette Pajer and Jon Talton.

Special to The Seattle Times

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The Northwest crime-fiction scene continues to travel from strength to strength. A few cases in point:

The deadly serious issue of spousal abuse in the culture of India surfaces close to home in Seattleite Bharti Kirchner's engrossing "Tulip Season" (Booktrope, 250 pp., $14.95). Wallingford landscape designer Mitra Basu plummets into that world when best friend Kareena Sinha, a domestic abuse counselor, disappears.

Kirchner, who reviews books for The Seattle Times, moves her plot along at a nice clip, as Mitra rallies the city's Indian-American community in search of Kareena.

But perhaps the best part of "Tulip Season" is Kirchner's gift for exploring, through Mitra's eyes, how the beauty of flowers evokes deep emotions.

Bharti Kirchner will read and sign "Tulip Season" at these area locations: 6:30 p.m. June 1 at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park (206-366-3333, www.thirdplacebooks.com); 7 p.m. June 12 at Wide World Bookshop in Wallingford (206-634-3453, wideworldtravelstore.com); and 7:30 p.m.June 29 at Couth Buzzard in Greenwood (206-436-2960, buonobuzzard.com).

Anacortes resident William Dietrich and his raffish hero Ethan Gage return in "The Emerald Storm" (Harper,368pp.,$25.99). After years of escapades performed in the service of such luminaries as Napoleon and Jefferson, Gage yearns to settle down with his new wife and son.

But there's no rest for the adventurer. First he has to rescue (via rickety flying machine) the (real-life) rebel slave Toussaint L'Ouverture from his mountaintop prison in France. Then it's off to the Caribbean, looking for rumored treasure while dodging French and British bad guys.

William Dietrich will read and sign "The Emerald Storm" at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Third Place Books; noon Wednesday at Seattle Mystery Bookshop (206-587-5737, seattlemystery.com); and 7 p.m. Wednesday at the University Book Store (206-634-3400, bookstore.washington.edu).

"Fatal Induction" (PoisonedPen,250pp.,$14.95), by Seattle-area writer Bernadette Pajer, is set at the dawn of the 20th century and stars University of Washington engineering professor Benjamin Bradshaw.

Bradshaw is trying to transmit performances from a theater to homes, using a newfangled device called the telephone. Meanwhile, he probes the disappearance of an itinerant patent medicine salesman and his daughter.

Pajer nicely underscores the contrast between early Seattle's rough-and-tumble side and its more genteel aspirations. She's also very good at explaining complex scientific concepts to the uninitiated. In the background is the recent assassination of President McKinley, while an intriguing subplot concerns the dangers of unregulated medicines. Longtime Seattle residents will have fun spotting the many references to local history (anyone remember G.O. Guy Drugs?).

Bernadette Pajer will read and sign "Fatal Induction" at 5 p.m. Thursday at Edmonds Bookshop, 111 Fifth Avenue S., Edmonds (425-775-2789, edmondsbookshop.com); and noon May 19 at Seattle Mystery Bookshop.

Seattle resident and Seattle Times business columnist Jon Talton affectionately evokes the flavors of Cincinnati, especially its blue-collar, ethnically rich neighborhoods, in "Powers of Arrest" (Poisoned Pen, 250 pp., $14.95 paper).

Cincinnati cop Will Borders, gravely injured in his last case and dependent on painkillers, is now the department's public-information officer. Not that that stops him from joining the investigation of a murdered cop who starred in a top reality show (and whose life, Borders finds, has some pretty seedy corners).

When it becomes evident that the grisly killing resembles recent murders on a nearby college campus, Borders is reunited with his pain nurse, now teaching at the university — and now more than a merely potential romantic interest.

Jon Talton will sign "Powers of Arrest" at noon May 22 at the Seattle Mystery Bookshop.

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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