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DECEMBER 12

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Barbara Neely’s mysteries are a far cry from those stereotypical whodunits in which sleuths with magnifying glasses extract threads from the shrubbery while aristocratic families wait in the drawing room with clasped hands. Neely’s no-nonsense heroine is a middle-age black maid who, in the opening pages of Blanche Among the Talented Tenth, complains mightily about the size of her butt. Her name is Blanche White, which, while unfortunate, serves to introduce many of Neely’s pointed observations on black/white relations and racism within the black community. Neely speaks at 7 p.m. at the Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden’s Ring Auditorium, 8th & Independence Ave. SW. $12. (202) 357-3030. (Nicole Arthur)