Just For the Summer

The Last Lover

Trouble Becomes Her
by Laura Van Wormer
(Mira, $22.95, PG) ISBN 1-55166-847-5
Life is definitely looking up for Sally Harrington, who is working during the week in Manhattan, and spending weekends back home in the Connecticut countryside. Her latest job is that of assistant producer to DBS News star anchorwoman Alexandra Waring. Yep, life is definitely looking up, until Sally’s old mob connections come calling.

Sally happens to be the star witness in a Hollywood murder trial, and Alexandra wants her to use her “in” to produce a news series on the sensational case. With high-maintenance, sexually adventurous actress, Lilliana Martin back on the scene, along with two ex-boyfriends, and a lovesick college intern, Sally is in desperate need of a mental health day. However, there’s no rest for weary when a dead body turns up in the trunk of her rental car.

Enjoyment of this third Sally Harrington mystery hinges on two main factors: 1. If the reader likes first person narrative and 2. How familiar the reader is with the first two books in the series. Mine was a split decision, hence the middle of the road “acceptable” rating.

I adored Van Wormer’s use of the first person narrative. This tale is told squarely from Sally’s point of view, and her witty, often droll style made this a quick, enjoyable read. There’s quite a few interesting characters entering her life, and it’s fun to read exactly what Sally thinks about each of them.

However, that is also the wrinkle with Trouble Becomes Her, as there are dozens of characters introduced within the first few chapters. Honestly, I couldn’t keep them all straight. What with all the people working for DBS news, the hierarchy of the chain of command, along with the reintroduction of the principles in the murder trial - which includes even more characters along with motives - it took me a while to get the whole thing straight in my head.

I am reminded of the family sagas I’ve read that feature a family tree or list of characters in the front of the book. Unfamiliar readers could greatly benefit from such a list, but at 300 pages, the question remains - should there even be one? Some healthy pruning would have gone a long way in cutting down on my confusion, which would have made it a lot easier for me to concentrate on the back story.

With only three books in, it appears that the Sally Harrington series is one of those that can’t be read out of step. The healthy lead-in at the end of Trouble Becomes Her, implying the focus of book 4, only reinforces my opinion. Fans of this series will likely get more out of this latest adventure than newcomers - who would be wise to start at the beginning if they want to read about all the trouble that Sally seems to get into.

--Wendy Crutcher

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