HOUSE OF MANY ROOMS
By Marius Gabriel
Bantam Books, 1998
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
A wealthy socialite, Barbara Florio, dies in a tragic fire in her San Francisco mansion. Her estranged husband Michael is able to rescue their two adopted daughters, Devon and Therese. The fire is found to be arson, and Michael, despite his heroic act, is the prime suspect. Police detectives Carla Bianchi and Al Reagan find him less than cooperative with their investigation, especially after information about previous suspicious fires at the home suggest that the troubled twelve-year old Therese might actually be responsible for the blaze.
Half a world away, Dr. Rebecca Carey, recovering from a climbing accident in a Kathmandu hospital, reads with shock and horror of the crime. Therese is her daughter, born from a teenage affair and given up for adoption. She’d carefully selected the Florios to be her baby’s parents, and believed Therese would have a much better life than she could provide, in a home of wealth and privilege. Now, it seems, she’d been very wrong. Vowing not to let her child down again, she sets off on a long and tortuous journey to rescue Therese.
Rebecca flies from Nepal to San Francisco against the advice of her doctor, only to find that Michael has taken the girls and fled to parts unknown. His lawyer tells the police that it is the desperate act of an innocent man trying to protect his family. Detectives Bianchi and Reagan view his flight as an admission of guilt. Using clues from her one-time meeting with Barbara Florio, Rebecca traces Michael to his retreat and begins her plan to rescue her daughter.
The more she gets involved in the lives of Florio and his daughters, the more confused the issues become. Is the man a badly-treated hero, or a villain whose evil has no bounds? Is her daughter damaged beyond her ability to help? In the process of finding out the truth, Rebecca travels to the Italian Alps, rural Mexico, and back, full circle to California, and finds herself torn between two men, neither of whom may be what they seem.
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