Family ties No two families could be more opposite than the Arinelli sisters and the Cameron clan, yet they are woven together like colorful tartan plaid in When Venus Fell by Deborah Smith (Bantam, $23.95, 0553111434; BDD Audio, $23.95, 0553525085).

As Venus herself notes, the sisters Arinelli were always running from crimes they didn't commit. Their father was imprisoned for anti-government activity and died while in custody, and Venus and her sisters cannot seem to escape this legacy. Government agencies constantly pursue the sisters, searching for a place to lay blame each time a bomb goes off.

Gib Cameron's invitation to stop running lures Venus and Ella to the rustic mountain valley refuge where their parents married. For Venus and Gib, facing the past means facing the demons of fear and distrust. Smith's Brigadoon-like valley is peopled with vivid, eccentric characters. Their visceral, painful, exhilarating journeys of self-discovery prove Deborah Smith to be a storyteller of distinction.

Sandy Huseby writes and reviews from her homes in Fargo, North Dakota, and Nevis, Minnesota. She is online at

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