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Murphy's Law by Marilyn Pappano
(Silh. Int. Mom. #901, $4.25, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-07901-X
****
I remember a discussion on one of the lists objecting to heroes who treat the heroine badly and then don't do enough groveling before they are redeemed. I was a bit worried as I read Marilyn Pappano's fast-paced and entertaining police romance. Jack Murphy treated Eve DesJardiens as badly as possible. I was worried that he wouldn't suffer enough.

A year earlier, New Orleans police detective Jack Murphy had arrested his lover Evie as an accessory to murder. One of his informants, a young woman who had infiltrated the operation of William MacDougal, who was suspected of laundering money, had been found dead. The only person outside the department who knew about Celeste Dardenelle's police connections was Evie. And when an unexplained $5000 turned up in her account and calls to MacDougal were traced to her phone, Jack had concluded that she had sold him out. Even though Evie was released for lack of evidence, Jack remained convinced of her guilt.

Jack had loved Evie, but he had never really trusted her. You see, Evie was also the mysterious Evangelina, New Orleans' most famous psychic. Jack dismissed her claims of psychic powers and was uncomfortable with what he perceived to be her career as a charlatan. So he all too readily ignored her claims of innocence.

In the intervening year, Jack had become obsessed with getting MacDougal. He has an angle to get close to his target, but he needs Evie's help. MacDougal's new wife Irina is a believer in psychic powers. If the famous Evangelina can become her guru, well, perhaps Jack can find the evidence he needs to win his case. So he pressures Evie into cooperating, despite the danger.

When the two are thrown together, it becomes clear that neither has moved beyond the pain of their failed relationship. Evie felt understandably betrayed by the only man she had ever loved. That he could have believed her capable of such an act hurts her grievously. And yet she understands that Jack had felt compelled to believe the evidence of his eyes over the feelings in his heart.

Seeing Evie again, watching her interact with Irina, noting her relations with others, and asking questions about the events of a year earlier all lead Jack to doubt what seemed so clear a year earlier. But if Evie did not finger Celeste, then who did?

The answer to this question is the gist of the mystery in Murphy's Law. Pappano does a good job of keeping things interesting and maintaining the suspense. And while I figured out part of the solution, one aspect caught me completely by surprise.

Pappano develops her characters so that their continued fixation on each other despite each's sense of having been betrayed seems reasonable. They had been so incredibly happy, so perfectly matched, so comfortable with each other. Neither had ever experienced such a connection before. So the fact that neither could "get over it" does not seem surprising.

All in all, Murphy's Law is a most satisfying example of romantic suspense. And do not fear. Murphy suffers every bit as much as he should.

--Jean Mason


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