Second Sight by Beth Amos
(Harper, $6.50, G) ISBN 0-06-101288-2
***
Despite back-cover comparisons to the work of Dean Koontz and Mary Higgins Clark, I found that Second Sight was at best an acceptable read. There was little suspense for the reader, and the heroine's personality was often grating.

Marlie Kaplan has been blind for a year, the result of an explosion that occurred when the investigative television journalist was following up on an anonymous tip that corruption was rampant in the local police department. Unable to work, she has become a bitter recluse. But as the novel begins, she awakens from experimental surgery during which a computer microchip was planted in her brain. She regains partial sight, but there are unexpected side effects as well. When Marlie looks at people they appear to be surrounded by colored radiances that vary in color according to the person. Marlie begins to wonder if these "glowances" are really emotional auras that only she can sense.

As Marlie struggles to regain her independence, despite her limited sight, she decides to take a walk in the woods near her house. She is shocked to find herself witness to the brutal murder of a woman by an unknown assailant. Marlie can only see shadows, so the murderer's identity is unknown or is it? Will Marlie be able to recognize him by the black "glowance" that surrounded him as he committed the crime? As the case unfolds, Marlie begins to believe that the location of the homicide, so close to her own home, was not a coincidence. She learns that she knew the victim and starts to wonder if she is personally acquainted with the killer as well.

Second Sight has an intriguing premise but a mediocre execution. First of all, the identity of the murderer is fairly obvious to the reader by page 75. Thus, any remaining suspense derives from finding out when Marlie will wise up. Until then, she exhibits some serious TSTL (too stupid to live) symptoms when she discusses the case openly with someone she doesn't know well. As an investigative journalist she certainly should know better! Marlie also spends most of the novel acting whiny and feeling very sorry for herself. She is extremely dependent on her mother, and while I applauded the strong, positive mother-daughter bond, I also wanted Marlie to be a more independent heroine. By the last third of the novel she takes a little more control of her life but by then the damage to her character was already done.

The "glowance" concept, while interesting, was underdeveloped. The reader never learns the explanation for their occurrence, and Marlie's ability to decipher people's auras doesn't prevent her from ending up in the house alone with the murderer at the novel's denouement.

On the positive side, the action moves along quickly and there is an interesting plot twist regarding the murderer's motive. While there isn't really a romance in the novel, there is a hint at the end that a male character will play a more prominent role in Marlie's future.

I've read one of Beth Amos' previous two novels, Eyes of Night, and found it to be a more satisfying romantic suspense read. She still has a way to go before she is in the same league as Koontz and Higgins Clark, however.

--Susan Scribner


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