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11

S A T U R D A Y

James Michener, move over. Long home to the painstakingly researched 1,000-page doorstop, historical fiction has found a new hook: the thriller. Encouraged by the success of Caleb Carr’s The Alienist, publishers are now touting Eric Zencey‘s Panama as the latest in NYPD Blue-meets-Merchant/Ivory. More high-brow than Carr, Zencey chooses writer/historian Henry Adams as his protagonist and Paris at the time of the Panama Canal scandal as his setting. What emerges is a blend of lyrical, pensive prose and (perhaps inevitable) pretension. But he picked a gem in Adams, a rich figure and believable sleuth searching for a missing woman who doesn’t just have pretty eyes, but “eyes which came to him like a primary datum given twice: blue. Intelligent.” Hear more at noon at Chapters, 1512 K St. NW. FREE. (202) 347-5495. (John Cloud)