Ghost Moon

Irresistible

The Midnight Hour

Paradise County

Scandalous

The Senator's Wife

To Trust a Stranger
Vanished

 
Guilty
by Karen Robards
(Putnam, $24.95, PG-13) ISBN:  978-0-399-15461-4
***
Another book that doesn't live up to Robards' potential, Guilty is set in Philadelphia and follows the struggles of Kate White, who has recently found her way into a mess that far exceeds any of the messes she's dealt with before.

After working her butt off for the past decade to get through law school and singly raise her son, Ben, Kate has finally gotten a job with the DA's office and is approaching the kind of lifestyle she wants Ben to have, the life she never had: stability, a decent neighborhood, and not living off fast food or pb&j's for the twelve days before she gets paid. Then a courtroom disaster throws her into the path of Mario Castellanos, a convict with whom Kate used to hang out - and who Kate saw murder an off-duty police officer.

Mario threatens to reveal Kate as the cop's killer if she doesn't bend over backwards to get him out of prison. He also orders her to lie to everyone regarding his involvement in this latest tragedy that covered an attempted prison break. Since Mario and Kate seem to be the only survivors, this doesn't seem too difficult a task - until Tom Braga starts investigating the deaths of the judge, police, civilians, and felons involved in the courtroom shooting.

At first, Tom assumes the investigation will only support what he himself witnessed and what Kate White, the only hostage and the woman claiming to have killed her captor, had reported. Tom immediately notices that Kate seems to be afraid all of the time - even days after the shootings. So he digs a little deeper. And unfortunately for Kate, Tom's brother, a deputy who did survive being shot, saw Mario in the hallway with her during the incident. When Mario's gang friends and then Mario himself start harassing Kate and Ben, it becomes painfully obvious that there is more to her story.

It takes two hundred pages to get this far, and it is definitely not the interesting half of the book. When Mario is found dead in Kate's garage and she and Tom finally consummate their growing attraction, the action picks up and the plot finally starts to move. Mario's death does not solve Kate's problems because then his fellow gang members kidnap Ben and his ransom is for Kate to do whatever they ask of her. His kidnapping is the wake-up call Kate needs to spill the truth that has been dragging the plot down so much. Though by the time you, bored and frustrated, reach a point where the book finally grabs you, you may be ready to give up on it, the second half is considerably more edgy.

If, in fact, fifty to a hundred pages out of the first part of the book had been edited out, this may have been a four-heart book. Kate and Tom are genuinely likeable characters and their romance was truly enjoyable and usually more suspenseful than what was happening in the book (although, that wouldn't have taken much). Secondary characters included Tom's fellow police officers and family, all of whom were also very well-written. Fans of Robards specifically and perhaps romantic suspense in general will be at least somewhat disappointed but will still want to read this; however, I would advise picking up a copy at your local library instead of spending the cash.

--Sarrah Knight


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