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The Daughter by Jasmine Cresswell
(Mira, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 1-55166-425-9
****
Readers who enjoy romantic suspense will want to set aside a few hours to devour Jasmine Cresswell's, The Daughter, which is sort of a female version of The Fugitive. While there is romance to be found in this story, suspense and plenty of it is the key ingredient for the taut, tension-filled plot. While reading page twenty-two, I realized that I was actually biting my nails and I don't bite my nails!

In 1982, Maggie Slade was an angry and rebellious fifteen-year-old girl. She was angry because her mother had replaced her beloved father, who had died less than two years before, with a new lover. Maggie's mother and her lover are very secretive about their affair. Maggie has never even met the man although she did catch a glimpse of him while he was making love to her mother in their home. Maggie's rebellion against her mother results in her bringing home bad grades and hanging out with the wrong crowd at school.

After a terrifying date with a boy from her new crowd of friends, Maggie gratefully slips back into the safety and security of her Colorado Springs home. But Maggie's feelings of safety and security are short-lived. When she reaches her mother's room, Maggie discovers her mother has been shot and that she can do nothing to save her life. And Maggie's nightmare is only just beginning because the police believe that she is guilty of murdering her mother. With the help of rookie cop, Sean McLeod, they build a strong case against Maggie and she is convicted.

Maggie escapes from prison after seven terrible years and spends the next seven years on the run. She manages to stay out of jail by constantly moving, changing her name and her appearance. By 1997, Maggie knows all about the worst life has to offer and little of the good. Her current job as a waitress in Tampa doesn't afford her much intellectual satisfaction, but it does allow her to save money. Still, Maggie is beginning to get the feeling that she may have stayed too long in one place and that it would be safer if she moved on. This feeling quickly turns into a certainty when Sean McLeod walks into the restaurant/bar where she works.

Detective Sergeant Sean McLeod is not a happy man. Currently on leave from the force, he is staying with his parents in their St. Petersburg home while he recovers from a gunshot wound. The incident also resulted in the death of his partner. Sean is also bitter and angry with his ex-wife, who recently married a wealthy surgeon, because she rarely lets Sean see his beloved daughter. Trying to cheer up his younger brother, Don McLeod decides to take Sean to a bar in Tampa. He also wants Sean to meet the woman Don to ask to be the fourth Mrs. Donald McLeod, a waitress named Maggie.

While I enjoyed this book very much, I do have a few, very minor quibbles. The author does a good deal of backtracking in this story. Actually, most of the time she uses backtracking very effectively as mechanism to keep the reader off balance and to either sustain or build the suspense. However, there were times when I felt the facts should have been explained up front so that the reader doesn't have to wonder about them. For instance, I wondered when Maggie's mother was killed her whygrandparents or other relatives didn't show up to help her? At the end of the book I learned that she did indeed have grandparents and that they didn't help her because they thought she was guilty.

Although the ending is predictable, it really doesn't matter because the fun of this book is in the fast-paced, suspense-filled pages that get you there. The author does a wonderful job of making you feel what Maggie feels her fear, her loneliness. Ms. Cresswell paints a very clear and a very sad picture of what it's like to be a fugitive. Maggie doesn't have anything of her own; she doesn't even feel like she should buy a plant for her apartment, since she knows she might have to leave in the middle of the night.

If this tale's abundance of suspense doesn't keep readers turning the pages, the desire to see some justice in Maggie's life will. She is definitely a heroine to root for. You want her to overcome all the obstacles standing between her and what most of us take for granted: a normal life.

Finally, I do want to advise readers NOT to read the descriptive blurb on the back of the book, it gives away too much of the story. Reading the blurb eliminates a good deal of the suspense the author successfully worked so hard to achieve in this tale.

--Judith Flavell


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