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TILL THE END OF TOM


By Gillian Roberts

Ballantine Publishing, 2004
ISBN: 0-345-45492-8

Reviewed by Shirley H. Wetzel

English teacher Amanda Pepper, trying to sneak out of the Philly Prep headmaster's deadly boring annual address to the student body, stumbles over a truly dead body at the foot of the school's ornate and treacherous marble staircase. The man, a stranger to Amanda, had somehow managed to breach the school's security, gone to the second floor for reasons unknown, and come down again by means unclear. Mrs. Wiggins, the most recent addition to the long line of more or less incompetent school secretaries, tells Amanda he must have come in while she was in the ladies' room, leaving the front desk unattended. She begs Amanda not to reveal her lapse, and Amanda, feeling it will do no harm, agrees. The man turns out to be socialite/millionaire/woman chaser Tomas Severin, who had, just prior to his fall, been sipping tea in Amanda's empty classroom. Amanda, in her role as a fledgling investigator in her fiance's P.I. firm, sets out to find out why Severin had her name and phone number in his pocket, who put an illegal substance in his tea, and how he came to end up at the bottom of the school staircase. To complicate matters, her best friend, the flamboyant and exuberant Sasha, was Tom's last conquest. Amanda's broken-hearted chum was aware of Tom's current wife, but had no idea there was also a fiancée waiting in the wings. Tom was a busy man, and there was a whole army of disgruntled ex-wives and lovers, rejected children, mistreated siblings, unhappy business partners, and miscellaneous others who had reason to welcome his demise. To his mother, the elderly, doddering, but well-dressed, well-tucked and fashionably slim Ingrid Severin, however, he could do no wrong - with the exception of his disapproval of her thirty-something lover Cornelius Westerly.

In between her duties as a teacher and investigator Amanda is dealing, or trying to avoid dealing, with planning her upcoming, long-awaited nuptials to C. K. Mackenzie, with, or in spite of, the assistance of her mother, who is all for a grand traditional wedding with all the pomp and circumstance, and her mother-in-law-to be, who favors a Wicca ceremony. Amanda manages to handle it all with her usual resourcefulness. All's well that ends well, as they say, right after they say "remember, you only get married once."  A must for all Gillian Roberts fans, this is my favorite Amanda Pepper - so far. I'm looking forward to the next one, to see how Amanda and C.K. adjust to married life.

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