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Chasing Rainbow by Sue Civil-Brown
(Avon, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-380-80060-8
***
Have you ever been tempted to visit Madame Zora for a psychic reading? Or have your tea leaves read? Or your palm? Have your aura analyzed? Perhaps at one time or another most of us have been curious about these psychic happenings, but we've never followed through on this curiosity. I know I'm too cowardly to do something like this. Without a true point of reference, I had a little difficulty appreciating our heroine, Rainbow Moonglow – a psychic.

Jake Carpenter, a petroleum geologist who's traveled the world, is going to take a year off and write a book. Staying in his recently deceased uncle's condo in Paradise Beach, Florida, Jake has no idea what's about to happen to his orderly life and carefully planned future. Being the youngest resident by about thirty years, he's elected president of the condo association in absentia.

His first order of business is to find out what's causing all the disturbances in various apartments. Stuff is floating by, there are weird noises and people think they're seeing things. The general consensus among the elderly residents is that the place is haunted. Their idea is to hire Rainbow Moonglow, a local and well-respected psychic.

Rainbow Moonglow's main source of income is derived by giving Tarot card readings. Her mother, also a psychic, is the one with the ghost busting experience, but Mom's on a cruise when Rainbow is asked by the residents to help rid the building of ghosts. She's all set to help when a major irritant arrives in the form of Mr. Prove-It-To-Me-Scientifically.

Jake is livid to think that the kindly old residents are about to be fleeced. Rainbow has met his type time and again and refuses to justify her psychic abilities to anybody. Her former fiancé walked out on her, with the final salvo that she was creepy. So she's in no mood to be kind to this patronizing jerk.

Indeed there are ghosts who are haunting the building. Jake's Uncle Joe and Joe's fiancé Lucy need to get a message to Jake. The boating accident which ended their lives was really no accident. Even Jake senses that he's being watched, but he refuses to believe that what he's seeing is caused by psychic occurrences. Well, he's a nonbeliever until he sees a chair, an end table and a lamp . . . upside down on his ceiling. That's when the scientist in him begins to wonder if perhaps Rainbow might be right. Perhaps the whole place is haunted.

All Jake has to do now is figure out what Joe and Lucy are trying to tell him.

Sometimes books can be too busy, with too many subplots taking the spotlight away from the main story. This time we have one long, long story with very few subplots. This story might have been better served in an anthology. As it was, it was too long, with nothing much of interest happening. A dose of suspense or a spark would have helped, but this story just dragged along to its predictable outcome. While the ending is lovely, the excitement it engenders is too little, too late.

The secondary characters give the story most of its color and interest. The geriatric crowd is more fun and appealing than Jake and Rainbow. There's Gene, Rainbow's uncle, who is an ex-CIA agent who's become a Hollywood actor. He provides most of the comic humor, with his Thought of the Day t-shirts. His explanation of why he prefers the Gulf of Mexico over the Pacific Ocean is delightful: " It's a more user-friendly experience."

Then we've got the 'military' men who come armed with dustbusters for each encounter with the ghosts. Rainbow's mom, Roxy, is a kind hearted but temperamental medium. I had really hoped for more from Dawn, Rainbow's 'normal' sister. Her character showed potential that was never realized.

Sue Civil-Brown a.k.a. Rachel Lee is an extraordinarily popular author, with quite a following. While I predict that this book won't be as warmly received as some others of hers, I foresee a long publishing future. And that's the extent of my prognosticating ability.

--Linda Mowery


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