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Agatha Christie fans, rejoice: Sophie Hannah brings back famed detective Hercule Poirot in the riveting Hercule Poirot’s Silent Night, the latest entry in her authorized reboot of the iconic series. 

Hercule Poirot and Inspector Edward Catchpool (Hannah’s own invention) are taking on a new case, this time brought to them by Cynthia Catchpool, Edward’s mother. Even as she invites  them to celebrate Christmas with her, Cynthia enlists their help in solving a murder—and preventing another. Catchpool thinks his mother is only scheming to spend time with him, but Poirot senses something amiss and agrees to take on the case.

They travel to Norfolk, where a well-liked and amiable man was recently murdered in a busy hospital ward. Local officials have yet to figure out how the killer was able to escape unseen, and Cynthia’s friend Arnold is due to be admitted to that very ward. Arnold’s wife believes her husband will become the next victim, so Poirot and Catchpool are asked to unmask the killer before Arnold is admitted—and possibly murdered. When Poirot and Catchpool begin their investigation, they have high hopes for a neat solution and a quick return to London. But as they unravel the mystery, the sleuths realize there’s more than meets the eye with this case, and they may be closer than they realize to the killer.

Hannah’s biggest departure is in creating Inspector Catchpool to narrate the series while Poiroit’s traditional companion, Arthur Hastings, is presumably in Argentina. The addition of a new viewpoint character allows readers to see the Belgian detective from a fresh perspective while also allowing Hannah to establish her own voice, which she does with aplomb even as she effortlessly captures Poirot’s essence. And Catchpool is a likable narrator: intelligent; bitingly funny, especially when ruminating on his complicated relationship with his mother; and devoted to Poirot.

The mystery itself is reminiscent of Christie, too—meticulously plotted and engaging, with multiple likely suspects. Readers looking for another puzzling outing with the famed Hercule Poirot will be richly rewarded with this new installment.

Sophie Hannah’s latest bitingly funny and meticulously plotted Hercule Poirot mystery effortlessly captures the Belgian sleuth’s essence.
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If you aren’t familiar with Scottish mystery writer Val McDermid, you’re in for a decided treat. Both longtime fans and newcomers alike will be able to jump right into the building suspense of Past Lying, McDermid’s seventh book starring Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie.

In April 2020, at the beginning of COVID-19 lockdown, cold case expert Pirie has formed a quarantine bubble in Edinburgh, Scotland, with Detective Sergeant Daisy Mortimer. The pair are living in a flat belonging to Hamish Mackenzie, Pirie’s current romantic interest, is currently in the Scottish Highlands, has bought a gin mill and is busy making hand sanitizer. Everyone’s a bit stir-crazy, including Pirie, who walks outside as much as possible, noting that Edinburgh suddenly feels “like the zombie apocalypse without the zombies.”

Pirie’s entire team is delighted—and increasingly intrigued—when an archivist at the National Library brings a strange document to their attention: an unfinished manuscript by recently deceased crime novelist Jake Stein that may provide clues to the well-publicized but unsolved disappearance of a university student named Lara Hardie. The manuscript bears uncanny similarities to the case, and seems to point to another popular mystery author, Ross McEwan, as the killer. 

It’s the perfect case for lockdown, since the first step is simply to read the manuscript. But soon Pirie and her team are deep into an actual investigation, conducting (socially distanced) interviews and tracking down leads about both authors, as well as the missing student. In the meantime, McDermid has great fun dishing out knowing commentary on writers and literary intrigue. 

Pirie is a probing, astute detective with a heart of gold and a taste for justice, even when she doesn’t get the support she needs from her superiors. Meanwhile, her relationship with Hamish is also on the line, so Pirie has plenty to ponder despite the world being seemingly on hold. Past Lying is another finely plotted Karen Pirie page turner that will leave readers wanting more.

Val McDermid’s Past Lying is another finely plotted Karen Pirie page turner that will leave readers wanting more.
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The Professor, Lauren Nossett’s sophomore mystery, is a deep dive into the world of academia, where ivy-covered walls hide forbidden love affairs, deadly competition and plenty of secrets.

Former police detective Marlitt Kaplan is still reeling from the events of The Resemblance, which saw her removed from the force. Living with her parents and trying to find her way, she agrees to help when one of her mother’s colleagues at the University of Georgia finds herself the subject of a Title IX investigation.

Professor Verena Sobek has been struggling. A Turkish German woman, Verena is not what her students expect in a German language professor. Every day is plagued by anxiety: Her students are distant and often cutting in their remarks, and then there’s the relentless nature of academia’s “publish or perish” mindset. The one student who shows her kindness is Ethan Haddock. But when Ethan shocks everyone by killing himself, leaving behind an apology to Verena, rumors of a scandalous affair begin to swirl.

Marlitt agrees to investigate Ethan to help clear Verena’s name—and to ease her own mounting boredom—but she finds the case to be anything but straightforward. Posing as a student and moving into Ethan’s old room in an off-campus apartment he shared with some peculiar roommates, Marlitt immerses herself in a world that is as adversarial and alienating for students as it is for professors. Although older, Marlitt finds that she, discomfitingly, has a lot in common with the students. Unmoored after her dismissal from the police force, she is also transitioning between phases of her life, and given her current reliance on her parents, she lacks the independence of most people her age.

Nossett is a professor herself, and her portrayal of UGA is immersive and filled with real-life details. A whodunit with dark academia undertones, The Professor can be read as standalone, but readers may find themselves immediately seeking out The Resemblance after finishing Nossett’s impressive mystery.

Lauren Nossett’s The Professor is an immersive and impressive whodunit with dark academia undertones.

Dear reader, when you go on a road trip, do you stop only for food, gas and bathroom breaks? Or do you embrace detours to local oddities, historical sites and scenic overlooks? 

Your answer will likely inform whether you’ll enjoy MSNBC news producer Dann McDorman’s unusual debut mystery, West Heart Kill. Will you deem it an exercise in delayed gratification with a side of lectures? Or a refreshing—nay, daring—metafictional take on the murder mystery? 

West Heart Kill is definitely ambitious and absolutely entertaining. The year is 1976, the place is the private West Heart hunting club in upstate New York, and the detective is private investigator Adam McAnnis, there for a visit with his friend James Blake. The Blakes and the club’s other member families, all beneficiaries of generational wealth, are gathering to celebrate the Fourth of July. There shall be fine dining, hunting, swimming and a smattering of adultery.

But really, McAnnis is there at the behest of a mysterious client who’s hired the detective to ferret out conspiracies against him. West Heart has conflict aplenty: the aforementioned adultery, a proposal to sell the club and painfully unresolved resentments. McAnnis observes it all and, when a woman is found dead, a dark and stormy night serves as dramatic backdrop to multiple interrogations and indignant protestations, additional deaths and scandalous revelations. 

McDorman does an excellent job of peeling the onion-like layers of his detective tale, carefully doling out surprises as the pages turn. It’s his penchant for digression that might prove controversial: He repeatedly pauses his story to contemplate literary conventions, sample different formats and interrogate the work of Sophocles, Agatha Christie, et al. He also playfully points out when he’s employing genre tropes like “the Great Detective Pondering the Case.” 

As the author notes while wearing his second-person-narrator hat (he dons first- and third-person chapeaux, too), “The mystery, virtually since its inception, has invited rule-making and rule-breaking.” McDorman embraces that notion in a way that I, dear reader, found archly amusing. The journey, while meandering and sometimes confounding, had its own pleasing element of suspense: Wherever will he detour to next? West Heart Kill is an off-roading mashup of fact and fiction that will have readers asking “Are we there yet?” with varying degrees of enthusiasm and buy-in—and thus is sure to spawn exceptionally lively book club debates.

Dann McDorman’s extremely meta mystery, West Heart Kill, is sure to spawn exceptionally lively book club debates.
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Against the Currant transports readers to the Little Caribbean neighborhood in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, where Lyndsay Murray is ready to open her own bakery. She just needs to clear her name first.

Lyndsay and her family have worked hard on Spice Isle Bakery. But on opening day, another local business owner, Claudio Fabrizi, visits the bakery and threatens Lindsay. He wants her store shut down before it can eat into his profits. Shaken but ready to fight for her business and family, Lyndsay kicks Claudio out. When he is found murdered the next day, police believe Lyndsay may be involved. To clear her name and ensure Spice Isle Bakery can stay open for business, Lyndsay begins investigating Claudio’s murder.

Readers will enjoy following Lyndsay as she navigates an increasingly dangerous situation. She’s smart, funny and hardworking, but it’s her dedication to her family and bakery that make her truly shine. The Murray family opened Spice Isle Bakery to celebrate their life and success in America, while also honoring their Grenadian heritage. Lyndsay knows all too well how her family poured everything they have—time, resources and money—into Spice Isle Bakery. She’s committed to clearing her name so that her parents, grandmother and brother won’t suffer. Lyndsay’s grandmother is a particularly memorable character: Fashionable Granny is equal parts wise and witty, and unconditionally supportive of her granddaughter’s dreams.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of Against the Currant is how author Olivia Matthews brings Brooklyn’s Little Caribbean to life, immersing readers in the tightknit, bustling community. Matthews is a pen name for romance author Patricia Sargeant, who grew up in Little Caribbean herself and whose family history inspired Spice Isle Bakery. 

Cozy mystery fans will devour the fast-paced and exciting Against the Currant.

Cozy mystery fans will devour Against the Currant, which is set in a bakery in Brooklyn’s Little Caribbean neighborhood.
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In the midst of a messy divorce and plagued by writer’s block, Emily accepts an invitation from her longtime best friend, Chess (now a lifestyle guru), to spend the summer at a luxurious Italian villa. It turns out, however, that the villa has a sordid history: Nearly 50 years earlier, in the mid-1970s, it was the site of a scandalous celebrity murder that in turn inspired a bestselling feminist horror novel. Emily’s growing obsession with the villa’s history inspires her to write at long last—but investigating that long-ago crime and its aftermath opens up old fissures in her relationship with Chess. Will the villa’s dark history repeat itself? 

Rachel Hawkins’ gothic novel The Villa (8 hours) has a wonderfully complicated narrative: Inspired by everything from Fleetwood Mac and Mary Shelley to the Manson murders, it includes not only two separate narratives with two sets of characters but also a novel-within-a-novel, podcast episodes, blog posts and more. Aided in some moments by music, the talented narrators—Shiromi Arserio, Julia Whelan and Kimberly M. Wetherell—prove more than up to the task of guiding listeners through the emotional atmosphere that Hawkins has so superbly created.

Three talented narrators guide listeners through the complicated emotional atmosphere that Rachel Hawkins has so superbly created in The Villa.

All good things must come to an end, and much to the chagrin of Aaron Falk fans worldwide, that includes Jane Harper’s mystery series starring the Australian federal investigator. 

2017’s The Dry, set in a small drought-stricken town, launched Harper’s career as an internationally bestselling author. (It also spawned a hit film adaptation starring Eric Bana.) Next, Falk hiked into a wilderness retreat in 2018’s Force of Nature to solve another murder. And now, Harper is bringing back the talented investigator for his final turn. The cerebral, character-driven Exiles is set in South Australia’s verdant wine country, where natural beauty contrasts with psychological darkness. 

Readers will relish joining godfather-to-be Falk in the fictional Marralee Valley for the christening of baby Henry, son of Falk’s good friends Greg (a police sergeant) and Rita Raco. The Raco family is staying at a vineyard run by Greg’s brother, Charlie, but their celebratory mood is overlaid with grief at what happened a year ago, when Kim Gillespie—Charlie’s ex-partner and mother of their teen daughter, Zara—disappeared from the Marralee Valley Annual Food and Wine Festival, abandoning her infant daughter, Zoe, in her stroller. 

Jane Harper wouldn’t dare snack in a bookstore.

From Kim’s new husband to locals who had known her since childhood, no one has any insight about what befell Kim during the festival. Was she murdered? Did she kill herself by jumping into the nearby reservoir? Or did she decide to disappear? Kim’s body was never found, and Zara cannot accept that Kim chose to leave or take her own life. Falk and Greg can’t let it go either; although the official conclusion was suicide, something nudges at Falk’s subconscious, a “translucent shimmer of a thought hovering in the distance, dissolving and reappearing without warning.” 

Another unresolved crime resurfaces as well, a fatal hit-and-run from six years earlier at the very spot Kim allegedly jumped from. The victim was the husband of Gemma, the festival’s director and a woman Falk finds captivating. In Harper’s hands, Gemma and Falk’s dynamic is a compelling mystery unto itself: Might the devoted detective actually be considering a different way of life? 

Falk is nothing if not dogged, and as he ponders the reservoir’s unknowable depths, he closely observes the tightknit community, teasing out revelations about complicated relationships and long-held secrets, the tension ever building as he gets closer to important truths about the crimes—but also about himself. Harper’s lyrically written, immersive and slow-burning mystery serves as a powerful send-off for a beloved character.

Jane Harper’s lyrically written, immersive and slow-burning mystery Exiles is a powerful send-off for beloved character Aaron Falk.

The past has a way of catching up to you when you least expect it. The characters of Alex Finlay’s new thriller, What Have We Done, learn this the hard way.

A TV producer (Nico), a rock star (Donnie) and a former assassin (Jenna) all believe they left a shared secret from their childhood in the past as they forged successful lives as adults. All three of them were once residents of Saviour House, a home for abandoned teenagers, but they haven’t seen one another in 25 years.

Then each of them is suddenly targeted by a pair of ruthless twin assassins. Nico is nearly killed in a mine explosion on the set of a reality show he’s been producing, Donnie is forced overboard on a cruise ship and left to drown, and Jenna becomes the hunted when she refuses to kill an old friend. These murder attempts come on the heels of the death of another friend from Saviour House, forcing the trio to realize their past transgressions have come back to haunt them. Nico, Donnie and Jenna have a common foe set on revenge, and they’ll have to pool their talents together if they’re going to survive.

Told in short chapters from Nico’s, Donnie’s and Jenna’s alternating perspectives, the story moves at a quick-fire pace reminiscent of a James Patterson thriller (there are more than 85 chapters!), only slowing when the leads reflect on the past. Devoted more to action and plot than to personalities, the novel is a bit of a departure from Finlay’s previous, more character-driven efforts (Every Last Fear, The Night Shift). Still, he skillfully blends storylines past and present in What Have We Done, resulting in a suspense-filled romp.

Alex Finlay (Every Last Fear, The Night Shift) skillfully blends storylines past and present in this suspenseful romp.
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Veronica Speedwell returns in A Sinister Revenge, the eighth mystery in a series best described as Agatha Christie in the world of Victorian science and natural history.

Natural historian and butterfly hunter Veronica has been separated from Stoker, a fellow scientist who had become her sleuthing partner and lover. But Stoker’s brother Tiberius, Lord Templeton-Vane, reunites the couple by giving them a dangerous new case to solve. 

In his youth, Tiberius ran with a group of students who called themselves the Seven Sinners, but then tragedy struck at his family’s Devon estate when one member of their party died in an accidental fall while trying to claim a fossil from a cliffside. During the following years, two other members also met an early demise, and now a threatening letter has Tiberius believing that they may all have been murdered by one of their own—and that he might be the next victim. In a Christie-esque conceit, Tiberius invites the remaining members of the Seven Sinners to an elaborate house party, where he plans to confront them and, hopefully, where Veronica and Stoker will uncover the murderer. 

As the house party unfolds, it becomes apparent that the history of the Seven Sinners is more complex than Tiberius let on, with secret affairs and bitter jealousies complicating the past. Even as Veronica untangles the web of complex relationships, she struggles to reconcile Stoker’s distance from their own romantic partnership. As usual, Veronica’s keen observations and sharp wit contrast with her own occasional lack of self-awareness (especially when it comes to romance), making for a delightful read. Longtime readers of the series will be pleased to see regulars such as intrepid reporter J.J. Butterworth and ingenious chef Julien d’Orlande return. But ultimately, Raybourn’s masterful entanglement of Veronica and Stoker’s love story with the mystery at hand makes A Sinister Revenge a standout entry in an already excellent series.

Deanna Raybourn’s masterful balance between romance and mystery makes A Sinister Revenge a standout entry in an already excellent series.

Flames flicker around the edges of Margot Douaihy’s Scorched Grace, casting light and revealing darkness, hinting at the sort of destruction that offers the possibility of a new beginning.

That’s what Sister Holiday Walsh was looking for a year ago when she joined the Sisters of the Sublime Blood after fleeing the wreckage of her life in Brooklyn, New York. Sister Holiday is not a typical nun: While she and her brother, Moose, were raised Catholic by her former-nun mom and police captain dad, being wholly reverent has never been her thing. Rather, she’s the self-described “first punk nun,” a heavily tattooed loner who hides her ink under scarf and gloves and conceals her trauma under a jauntily sarcastic demeanor.

Although she’s somewhat found her footing as a music teacher at Saint Sebastian’s, the New Orleans school the nuns oversee, Sister Holiday’s emotional armor cracks open when an arsonist strikes and Jack, a well-liked janitor and her confidante, is killed. Stunned at his loss and baffled as to why someone would commit such violent acts against the school, Sister Holiday turns to chain-smoking and recalling memories of her former lover Nina to soothe herself. 

How Margot Douaihy turned to noir’s hard-boiled past—and looked to its future—to create Sister Holiday.

But it’s not enough: She mistrusts the police, she doesn’t feel safe, and the Raymond Chandler novels she escaped into as a kid are looming large in her mind. “Sleuthing and stubbornness were my gifts from God,” she thinks, and she’s sure as hell going to use those gifts to solve the mystery on her own. 

Scorched Grace revels in its unreliable narrator and bounty of plausible suspects, from shifty authority figures to mercurial students to enigmatic women of God. Douaihy, a poet and professor who shares Sister Holiday’s punk sensibility, immerses the reader in her hyperlocal New Orleans setting and the murky depths of Sister Holiday’s tormented soul. Her prose is frequently lyrical and often lacerating, her characters layered and intriguing. 

It’s not surprising in the slightest that this series starter is the first book published by Gillian Flynn’s eponymous new imprint. Scorched Grace is both entertaining and devastating, dominated by a queer sleuth with a clever, curious mind and a fatalistic yet somehow still hopeful heart.

Scorched Grace is an entertaining and devastating mystery that introduces Sister Holiday, a queer nun with a clever, curious mind and a fatalistic yet somehow still hopeful heart.
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“The Great British Baking Show” meets Knives Out in The Golden Spoon, Jessa Maxwell’s delicious, atmospheric debut.

Celebrated baker Betsy Martin has hosted her popular show “Bake Week” from the grounds of Grafton, her Vermont family estate, for the past decade. This year, change is in the air: The network has foisted a new co-host on her, and Betsy had less input than ever before when selecting which six contestants would compete for the show’s coveted Golden Spoon award. Still, “America’s Grandmother,” as Betsy’s known among her fans, chooses to push ahead with the new season. When the competition gets underway, things start to go haywire. The contestants believe someone is sabotaging their bakes—and when a dead body is discovered, everyone in the baking tent becomes a murder suspect.

The Golden Spoon is impossible to put down, especially for fans of shows like “The Great British Baking Show.” Maxwell expertly unspools her mystery, switching among the perspectives of all six contestants, plus Betsy. The bakers’ voices and observations are a high point of the novel: Each character is distinct and well drawn, with their own motivations for joining the show and secrets to hide. There’s Stella, a former journalist and the most inexperienced baker; Hannah, the youngest contestant, who hails from a small town; Gerald, a rigid teacher who compares recipes to mathematical formulas; Pradyumna, a tech millionaire with nothing to prove; Lottie, a retired nurse with a special connection to Grafton; and Peter, who specializes in the reconstruction of historic buildings.

The novel begins with an eerie prologue from Betsy’s perspective before jumping back in time to when “Bake Week” first started filming. Readers know from the prologue that a gruesome discovery awaits, but most of the book—80%!—is devoted to following the characters through “Bake Week” and getting to know their motivations for competing. It’s not until the last fifth of the book that Betsy’s initial discovery is revealed, and from there, the plot quickly unfolds. Mystery genre fans may find many of the twists easy to spot, but Maxwell’s expert characterization and lyrical prose make The Golden Spoon a delight to devour.

Jessa Maxwell’s expert characterization makes her baking show-set mystery, The Golden Spoon, practically impossible to put down.
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Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by Jesse Q. Sutanto is a delightful cozy mystery that brims with humor and heart while introducing an unforgettable lead character.

The titular Vera leads a quiet life. She runs a tea shop in San Francisco’s Chinatown that rarely sees customers and spends her days cyberstalking her son, who often ignores her calls. Vera’s routine is disrupted when she discovers a corpse in her store. She springs into action—outlining the body with a Sharpie, just like she’s seen on TV; tidying up her shop and making tea to impress the police; and most notably, swiping a flash drive from the dead man, Marshall Chen. She’s not sure the police will take his death (which is clearly a murder, to her “CSI”-trained eyes) seriously. So Vera uses the information on the flash drive to identify four suspects: Oliver, Marshall’s brother; Julia, Marshall’s widow; and Sana and Riki, who claim to be journalists investigating the suspicious death. All four have something to hide, but as Vera investigates, the group comes together in unexpected and surprising ways. Is a killer truly among this newly found family of hers?

Vera is a tour-de-force creation. She’s feisty and meddlesome, with a big imagination and bigger heart. She’s riotously funny, often without trying to be. She spends a great deal of time dispensing tough love and sage advice, and is almost always correct, much to the annoyance of her new friends. Sutanto also delivers well-drawn, memorable secondary characters, particularly Julia and her daughter, Emma. As Vera worms her way into her suspects’ lives and hearts, so, too, will the characters of Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers endear themselves to readers.

The mystery itself is intriguing, with well-placed clues and foreshadowing. Marshall left behind a trail of lies and enemies, but Vera proves herself up to the task of solving his murder. And along the way, she even helps many of his friends and family heal and become better versions of themselves. Sutanto hits all the right notes in this cozy mystery, perfectly blending meddling, murder and found family.

Jesse Q. Sutanto hits all the right notes in Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers, a cozy mystery worth reading for its hilariously meddlesome titular character alone.

In The Soulmate, New York Times bestselling author Sally Hepworth follows two women who each thought she’d found once-in-a-lifetime love. One relies on memories to reconcile the partner she thought she knew—who is now suspected of murder—while the other speaks from beyond the grave, bereft of her beloved. As you would expect, the women’s stories are more intertwined than is immediately apparent.

Pippa has it all: a successful career, two gorgeous little girls, an adoring husband, Gabe, and a gorgeous new waterfront house situated on a cliff. There’s just one macabre drawback: The cliff is a frequent location for suicides. Shortly after they move in, Gabe becomes something of a guardian angel and talks multiple people out of killing themselves. But one fateful night, a woman approaches the cliff and, despite Gabe’s entreaties, jumps to her death. At least, that’s what Gabe claims, though the local authorities think otherwise. As Pippa reflects on her relationship with her soulmate—a dramatic saga full of lost jobs and sudden moves—so does Amanda, the woman at the cliff. Past and present collide as the reasons for Amanda’s journey to the cliff, and the extent to which Pippa has worked to protect the man she loves, become clear.

Hepworth is a master of suspense, teasing out a complicated and deadly tale as well as she teases out the complicated and occasionally deadly individuals behind it. None of the four “soulmates”—Pippa, Gabe, Amanda and Amanda’s husband—are all good or bad. The reality is far more interesting and intense, rife with professional ambition, struggles for power in the boardroom and bedroom and, for Pippa and Amanda, a never-ending quest to understand the men to whom they’re devoted. One character deals with severe mental illness, which Hepworth reveals and analyzes in ways both sensitive and true to life, and another holds onto a family secret with disturbing consequences. From its inciting incident to its final shocking twist, The Soulmate will keep readers in its thrall, making them wonder how well someone can really know their partner.

From its inciting incident to its final shocking twist, Sally Hepworth’s The Soulmate keeps readers in its thrall.

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