Wedding at White Sands
by Catherine Mann
(Silh. Int. Mom. #1158, $4.50, PG) ISBN 0-373-27228-6
**
Allie St. James is a private investigator in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. She is not a police officer like the majority of her family because she is afraid of failure. Allie’s specialty has become locating deadbeat fathers who refuse to make child support payments, also a reflection of her past.

One day young Robbie Larson appears in her office to hire her because he is afraid someone is planning to hurt his father. Allie is captivated by the young child and enraged at his father because Robbie is wandering around after school far from home, so she takes his case.

Seeking to give Robbie’s father a piece of her mind she elects to beard the lion in his den - or rather his business office. While waiting for him she snoops around and finds that he is planning a trip to the Keys. When he appears, his good looks and obvious caring for Robbie swamp her. Jake Larson is less than enchanted with Allie as he catches her snooping in his office.

Jake carries an enormous amount of guilt since he was driving when his wife was killed in a car accident. In addition, the accident brought his career as an Air Force investigator to a close because of his injuries and he retired to become an investor. He has made a lot of money but still longs for his investigative career.

New author Catherine Mann creates memorable characters. Allie is unbelievably pushy (to the point of being truly and unpardonably invasive), feisty and very single minded. When Jake arrives at the Miami Airport the next day he finds her sitting on the hood of his rental car asking him to take her to White Sands with him.

Allie is investigating the deadbeat father who owns the resort. Initially, unbeknownst to Allie, Jake is investigating the resort because they tried to scam his parents out their retirement money in a phony land sales plot. In conversation that is far from credible, Allie works Jake around to the position of taking her with him. When he registers at the hotel desk, she passes herself off as his wife. The author calls it impulsive acting, but that scenario didn’t work.

In the course of their mutual investigation, they are kidnapped, find themselves on a one-way boat trip, jump overboard and finally are saved. This starts a long series of fairly incredible events that end up as you may expect. The mystery plot is fairly thin, and too predictable.

The zaniness of Allie wears thin, and since the dialogue incorporates the same essence, it wears thin as well. The sexual tension that evolves is also based in part on this, and as such is hard to trust. Acknowledging that it is the characters that make this book memorable, it also the characters that cause it to be less than an average read.

--Thea Davis


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