After I Dream

Before I Sleep

Cowboy Comes Home

The Crimson Code

Holiday Heroes

The Hunted

Involuntary Daddy

A January Chill

Mistletoe Kisses

Snow in September

A Soldier's Homecoming

Under Suspicion

When I Wake

With Malice

The Unexpected Hero
by Rachel Lee
(SRS #1567, $4.99, PG) ISBN 978-0-373-27637-0
Rachel Lee returns to Conard County, Wyoming to the lives of the second generation of the Tate family so central to her first series. Regrettably, the stories of this generation lack the plot sophistication of the original series.

Kristin Tate, daughter of Nate Tate retired Sheriff, has just returned home after serving six years in the US Navy and eighteen months at the VA hospital in Denver. Although not a fighting participant in the war she bears the emotional battle scars nonetheless.

Her first day at work highlights the difference between the working conditions she is accustomed to and the requirements of her new job at the county hospital. Her introduction to Dr. David Marcus goes poorly as he immediately launches into a diatribe about the differences in front line medicine and small town illnesses. He obviously is a veteran and suffering from some of the same type of emotional baggage as Krissie. His main complaint is that he does not believe her experience fits the needs of the hospital.

This prejudice begins to soften soon enough when a patient who had recovered sufficiently to have reached the stage of nearly being released dies of what appeared to be a sudden cardiac event. On rounds prior to the patient's death Krissie had noticed a strange doll that had not previously been there, near the bed. This had been the only remarkable incident with the patient.

The relationship between Krissie and David begins to change when she observes him in action and realizes how much he cares for his patients and his superior medical skills. A subsequent patient's death, with another mysterious doll appearing prior to death, focuses the town's attention on the hospital and on Krissie, who is the new hire. What could have been construed as negligence in the care of patients turns to the reality that two murders had been committed when the autopsy results come back.

The finger pointing at Krissie would be the cornerstone of the suspense plot was it any other novel, but it does not come to that. Krissie and her dad are too well known to the Sheriff's department to ever suspect her so the story moves along focusing on her growing relationship with David Marcus. Each is dealing with their respective emotional issues sustained as casualties of civilian work in a war environment. Their love affair is clouded by the vagueness and impreciseness of what the reader could construe as some form of post traumatic stress syndrome.

Character development is shallow as Rachel Lee relies on fans remembering people like Gage Dalton, Micah Parish and life in Conard County from prior novels. The suspense portion of this story is weaker. If this reviewer were not acquainted with her excellent work in the first books of the Conard County series, perhaps it would not be so apparent. However, first time readers of Ms. Lee are urged to start with her earlier novels.

--Thea Davis

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