After I Dream

Before I Sleep

Cowboy Comes Home

Involuntary Daddy

A January Chill

Mistletoe Kisses

Snow in September

Under Suspicion

When I Wake

With Malice by Rachel Lee
(Mira, $6.50, PG) ISBN 1-55166-658-8
In the Florida home of Senator Grant Lawrence elderly nanny Abby Reese awakens to the sounds of someone screaming her name. Barely awake, she rushes to the rescue and is brutally slaughtered along with Stacy, a former lover of the Senator. The Senator and his children are in Washington D.C.

Grant’s aide, Jerry Connally, trying to get a jump-start on his day, pays a late night visit to the house to perform an errand for the Senator. He discovers the double murder and panics when he thinks of the potential harm the revelation of the Senator’s affair with Stacy, a former exotic dancer (read stripper), would have not only on his career, but also the potential passing of a Senate Resolution he is pushing. In an ill-conceived act, Connally removes Stacy’s body from the scene, dumps it in an alley across town and then calls police.

Tampa Detective Karen Sweeney is dispatched to the alley scene where Stacy’s body is discovered. Karen and her rookie partner are investigating this murder when she is pulled from the crime scene and sent to the Senator’s house to Abby’s murder.

Karen is pleasantly surprised that her respect for the Senator Grant is not misplaced when she discovers what a caring man he is. His obvious grief for the nanny greatly surpasses what she had anticipated, and this at a critical time in his career. The bill he is sponsoring targets the polluting effects of industrial waste from the farming industry of Florida. Political pundits are viewing this carefully as he is also being considered as his party’s next presidential candidate.

In the course of the investigation, it becomes apparent that someone is trying to ruin the Senator personally when an anonymous tip ties the two murders together. This spurs the Tampa police to send Karen to D.C. to further the inquiry. She is paired with an engaging D.C. detective. For Karen, the romantic chemistry is with Grant and the author is realistic about the progression of their entanglement.

This novel showcases Rachel Lee at what she does best. The creation of engaging characters, albeit with emotional baggage, placed within the framework of a clever and innovative plot that has innumerable twists and turns as it explodes into an unexpected ending.

That said, there are problems with he technical aspects of the book itself. In most novels when an author changes scenes, it is done by a chapter change or a page break. Here, nothing sets a change apart but a period, and the start of a new paragraph. It is disconcerting to say the least, to hop from one character to another in that fashion. This was in an advanced uncorrected proof, hopefully these were addressed in the final print run

Additionally there are some questionable forensic issues, but this is nonetheless fiction. All in all, the superbly told clever story with such warm characters overrides the technical to make this reading experience memorable.

--Thea Davis

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