Suspicion by Christiane Heggan
(Mira, $5.99, PG) ISBN 1-55166-305-8
Kate Logan is a defense attorney who is having a bad day. She has just lost an important case, and as a result, Tony, the son of her housekeeper, has been unjustly convicted of murder. To make matters worse, her philandering ex-husband Eric shows up at her door and pleads for money. A high-priced call girl wants $250,000 to suppress evidence that Eric cheated on his wealthy new fiancťe. Kate refuses Ericís request, but when the call girl is murdered, Eric begs her to help clear him of pending murder charges. Against her better judgement, Kate agrees, primarily to protect Ericís relationship with their moody teenaged daughter, Alison.

In her crusade to exonerate both Tony and Eric, Kate starts bumping into homicide detective Mitch Calhoun, who was the investigating detective in both cases. Their relationship quickly moves from antagonism to cooperation to mutual attraction.

As Kate tries to uncover evidence, she starts to believe that there is a connection between the call-girlís murder and Tonyís conviction. Eventually the clues lead to surprising cover-ups amidst Washington, D.Cís power elite.

The mystery is intriguingly convoluted. I enjoyed the way the clues unfolded piece by piece. The identity of the murderer is less interesting than the motive behind the crimes. However, the romance takes a backseat to the suspense, and Kate and Mitch are interchangeable with dozens of other romantic suspense heroes and heroines. The relationship between the feckless Eric and Megan, the rich heiress he has courted for money but has grown to love, is more interesting and should have been developed further.

Suspicion is the second novel Iíve read in the past month in which an allegedly successful heroine takes a backseat to the hero when solving the mystery or catching the villain, and frankly itís starting to get on my nerves. When Kate and Mitch finally confront the murderer, Kate is reduced to screaming in terror and mistakenly bashing Mitch on the head with a log as he fights for his life. I know not every romance novel has to read like a feminist manifesto, but a little show of female competence instead of helplessness would be appreciated.

Suspicion was enjoyable but unmemorable. The novel would have been more interesting if written entirely from Eric and Meganís point of view. The challenge of crafting a romance about a spineless guy who is at least partially redeemed by the shy heiressís love and loyalty could have led to the creation of something special.

--Susan Scribner

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