Night Whispers

 
Someone To Watch Over Me
by Judith McNaught
(Atria, $25.00, PG) ISBN 0-671-52575-1
*****
Judith McNaught has returned to high form in Someone To Watch Over Me. I highly recommend it. However, I must give this warning - if you are looking for pure romance, look elsewhere. This novel actually falls into the suspense category, with two delightful romances thrown in.

The whodunit is the primary plot. Logan Manning has bought a cabin in the Catskills and wants to fix it up for his and his wife’s weekend getaway. His wife, famous Broadway actress Leigh Kendall, isn’t so sure about it, but agrees to go along with Logan. They plan a rendezvous so that Leigh can get her first look at the cabin. Logan leaves first thing in the morning, and Leigh is to follow after her matinee performance. She heads off, straight into a blizzard and gets lost. Then she gets run off the road. When she wakes up in the hospital, the police inform her that Logan is missing. Eventually, they find Logan’s body in his car at the cabin. He is dead from a gunshot to the head. Now the question is, who murdered him?

One of Logan’s new business partners is Michael Valente, a man who has a sordid record of one violent crime and many cases of suspected wrongdoing, for which he has only been convicted of the one violent crime. This occurred when he was a teenager. Now as a successful businessman, he is under constant police scrutiny. He assists Leigh in getting through the discovery of Logan’s murder and now both are suspects. Is there also romance in their future?

There is so much more to this story, but so much is for the reader to discover. Major players who are suspects include Leigh’s producer, Leigh and Logan’s counselor, the other actors in the play and Leigh’s maid and new “borrowed” body guard. (For fans of McNaught, you will recognize O’Hara from Paradise.)

Now on the “good guy” side, the police, you have a second romance and another whole set of stories. Lt. Mitchell “Mack” McCord has been assigned this case specifically by the Police Commissioner and primarily because there is a chance that Michael Valente is the culprit. McCord has a reputation as the policeman who gets his man and does so with smart, intelligent and bold moves.

His team consists of two veteran detectives and one newly assigned female detective, Samantha Littleton. Sam is the step-daughter of a Senator, and unbeknownst to her, he pulled strings to get her assigned to this precinct, thinking it was safe. No one knows of this relationship, but everyone assumes she knows somebody to get promoted so quickly. In the good ole boys world, Sam is the outsider. But she is smart and is determined to prove herself to her fellow detectives.

As Sam and Mack work together, they realize they are drawn to each other. Determined to keep work from play, they downplay their emotions. This allows them to grow closer as friends and respect each other as colleagues. Their romance develops naturally. Mack is a strong hero who has honesty, integrity and grit. Samantha falls for him hook, line and sinker. Both expect the other to be stereotypical, and when they are not, the attraction deepens all the more.

There is a series of complex issues going on in the story at all times, and McNaught allows the reader to discover the truth with the characters. This adds to the suspense and the joy in the romances. These four main characters have depth that we discovered as layers were peeled away and which their partner discovered at the same time. It was fun actually rooting for both the police and the suspects because you never knew who was right and who was wrong.

The ending to the mystery is a little predictable, but everyone figures out who did it at the same time. The writing is such that even knowing, it was suspenseful to see how things would turn out.

With depth to every character in the book, a taut mystery and romance to boot, you cannot go wrong with Someone To Watch Over Me. I think this is going on my shelf along side some of McNaught’s older classics.

--Shirley Lyons


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