Tell Me No Lies by Annie Solomon
(Warner, $6.99, V) ISBN 0-446-61357-6
****
The small town of Sokanan is a dying town - low on industry, high on crime, until Wall Street power broker Alexandra Baker negotiated an oil deal with Russia and Russian émigré magnate Miki Petrov for the exploration of oil. The new business, Renaissance Oil, is to be located in Sokanan, where she currently resides.

On the day of Alex’s celebratory party, a convenience store owner Luka Kole is murdered in what appears to be a bungled robbery. Detective Hank Bonner is given the case although he has but two weeks before retirement.

Hanks’s early retirement is brought about by perceived family pressure and the demons that taunt him. His sister had been killed a year ago by her drunken husband in a locked tool shed just before Hank managed to break through and kill the husband. Their two children are having a hard time and Hank’s mother is struggling to manage the family apple orchards. Hank is leaving to help them.

The victim is a total unknown identity to the police not even having a readily accessible home address. Hank finds a newspaper article on the Renaissance Oil deal in the man’s wallet and contacts Alex Baker to see if she knew him. Troubled by her quick denial, he crashes the gala event to pursue his uncertainties. There he encounters Miki Petrov who is clearly on the prowl for the beautiful and wealthy Alex.

Alex is playing a deadly game. She has no relatives and her only close friend appears to be her Russian housekeeper, Sonya. The police trace Kola’s address and Hank goes there to discover a trashed apartment and Alex physically in the middle of it. She is forced to abandon her position that Kola is unknown to her, and tells Hank that in reality he was her estranged father.

This fact doesn’t help Hank to find the killer, but only expands the mystery. Alex finds herself getting deeper and deeper in her web of lies, and Hank is becoming more and more the one man with whom she doesn’t want to continue with her life of lies. The growing involvement of Alex with Hank’s family nicely balances the intrigue of a Russian crime and its ripple effect committed in the 1990’s.

With a deft touch, Annie Solomon has constructed warm and likable characters to balance the sinister and evil ones. The dialogue is always apropos and peppered with Russian phrases and bits of Russian culture. She makes wonderful use of her sense of place setting and scenes segue seamlessly.

The pacing varies with a true artist’s eye for including the essential only. In addition, the ending is a conclusive one, reinforcing the themes of the book and the progress of the main characters.

Tell Me No Lies is romantic suspense at its finest, succeeding on so many levels. The author astutely balances a fairly unique suspense story with a tremendous number of facets of love.

--Thea Davis


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