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Mary Jane Latsis; wrote murder mysteries

Mary Jane Latsis, who helped make business the backdrop for murder as one half of the Emma Lathen writing team that produced two dozen John Putnam Thatcher mysteries, has died at age 70.

Miss Latsis, who had homes in Warren, N.H., and Brookline, Mass., died Monday at a hospital in Plymouth, N.H. Her collaborator, Martha Henissart, said the cause was a heart attack and a stroke.

Their books, which have sold hundreds of thousands of copies, have been praised for their wit and insight. What set them apart were the authentic, often intricate, business deals that produced both the murders and the clues their banker hero used to solve them.

They generally produced a book every year or so, but once, when Miss Latsis, the daughter of Greek immigrants, became agitated over the 1967 Greek colonels coup, they interrupted a project and turned out When In Greece in six weeks.

Their latest book, A Shark Out Of Water, is being published by St. Martin's Press this month. Another manuscript, using the gulf war as a backdrop, is about 80 percent complete. Miss Henissart said she plans to finish it but doesn't know if the Thatcher character will continue after that.

When the urbane New York banker made his first appearance on the mystery scene, in the 1961 book Banking on Death, it raised eyebrows in two cultures.

For one thing, Thatcher, the executive vice president and head of the trust department of Sloan Guaranty Trust, the world's third-largest commercial bank, was the first fictional sleuth to spring from the world of business and finance, and he became an immediate hit on Wall Street.

For another, in a genre in which pseudonyms are common enough, nobody knew who Emma Lathen was, or even suspected that she was two shes, one a 34-year-old Harvard-trained economist (Miss Latsis) and the other a 32-year-old Harvard-trained lawyer (Miss Henissart).

It was years before the trade tumbled onto their secret, and years more before the writers would agree to be identified in interviews, to avoid embarrassing Miss Henissart's clients.

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JACQUES DEROGY, 72, a French investigative journalist whose work led to the trial of fugitive Nazi collaborator Paul Touvier, has died of cancer, friends said Friday in Paris. His 1971 discovery that then-president Georges Pompidou had pardoned Touvier, an officer in the despised wartime French pro-Nazi Militia, ultimately led to Touvier's 1994 trial and sentencing to life in prison, where he died. Mr. Derogy, whose real name was Jacques Weitzmann, wrote some 20 books, including one on the 1946 saga of the Jewish immigrant ship Exodus.

_ Area obituaries and Suncoast Deaths appear in local sections.

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