Full Circle by Karen Young
(Mira, $5.99, PG) ISBN 1-55166-471-2
****
In the strictest sense, this story began thirty-three years ago on a small yacht off the coast of New Orleans. The Castilles, with their daughter Amber, and the Madisons, with their daughter Kate, were enjoying a cruise on a calm sea when their boat mysteriously sank. Surviving were Kate and her mother, and Amber and her father.

We fast-forward to the present where Kate is now a trauma physician in an emergency room at one of Boston's premier hospitals. It's unclear, but she seems to be experiencing moments of mental dissociation caused by flashbacks.

When three patients are lost in a single shift, Kate is suspended from the hospital staff. While serving her suspension, she returns to her small town outside New Orleans and is shocked to find her mother in the terminal stages of cancer. A second ugly surprise is the very unpleasant marital situation of her best friend, Amber. Amber's husband Deke is a vicious redneck radio talk show host who, sober or drunk, abuses Amber and his son, Stephen.

When Kate visits the office of Dr. Leo Castilles (the man who became her surrogate father) to discuss her mother's illness, she encounters yet another unwelcome situation. Dr. Castilles has taken on a partner, Dr. Sam Delacourt. Kate and Sam had an affair five years earlier, only to have it end abruptly when she discovered he was married and had a child.

The final piece is in place when Amber discovers Nick Santana, the homicide cop she should have married, and his son Cody renting a house nearby while he recovers from a gunshot wound.

The lives of the four intertwined families converge in ways that might, if I were to describe it, sound overcomplicated or even melodramatic. But Karen Young has done such a good job of multi-generational character development that it flows along swiftly, involving the reader with the characters. The story also includes an unexpected murder and ever-pervasive sinister mysteries. Young deftly creates and sustains sexual tension that works hand in hand with the resolution of the crime.

I predict that even a veteran romantic suspense reader will not be able to see all the surprises contained in this January treat.

--Thea Davis


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