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By Barbara Parker

Dutton, May, 2000
ISBN 0-525-94542-3
US/$22.95 (hard cover edition, 341 pages)

Reviewed by Cathy Gladstone

Here we have a character-driven plot, that revolves around a who-done-it type mystery, spiced with a romance.

In chapter one, Roger Cresswell, heir to the Cresswell Yacht Building fortune is found murdered. Apparently he was shot during a party but his body was not discovered until the early hours of the morning. Quite naturally, the Cresswell's are shocked about their son's murder and ask for immediate justice. However, that may not be so simple because no one heard the shooting or saw any suspects.

But the police have one suspect, Bobby Gonzolez, who was fired, for allegedly stealing from the Cresswell's company. Bobby does have an alibi but there is just one problem. His alibi, Judge Nathan Harris is coming up for an appointment to the U.S. District Court and, if it comes out that he and Bobby were together, smoking marijuana at the time of the murder, well, need I say more? Judge Harris asks the famous criminal lawyer, Anthony Quintana to represent him.

As the plot thickens, we find there are many people who have hidden agendas and secrets from the past, including that of Gail Connor. Angela, Anthony Quintana's daughter asks Gail to defend her boyfriend, Bobby Gonzalez. She explains that her father doesn't like Bobby so that's why she's asking Gail for this favor. Gail isn't sure whether she can handle working with her ex fiancee, Anthony Quintana from whom she is hiding a big secret from the past.

You end up in the character of the heroine Gail Connor. She and Anthony know they must put away their differences from the past and defend their respective clients by working together to find the real murderer. A number of questions keep you turning the pages. How will Quintana react to Gail's secret? Will they overcome their past problems and get married? Will Bobby be convicted even though he's innocent? Who really did kill Roger? What was the motive? Will justice be served?

This book is good to the last drop. The romance and the mystery are so cleverly interwoven and intricately plotted that you can't jump to the last page to find out who-done-it. It's the type of book that flows gracefully from one chapter to the next with lots of clues or red herrings as the case may be. It concludes in a very satisfying way, with all the loose ends tied up in a neat package.

I suggest that you have a pen and paper handy to write down the names of the characters, their nicknames and their relationships or you might get them confused. I always do this with a character-driven plot.

After you finish this book, you'll want to check out the others in Barbara Parker's series featuring Gail Connor and Anthony Quintana. They make a terrific team with true to life problems and escapades and yet retain those larger than life qualities that make fictitious characters an interesting read.

Thank you Barbara Parker for writing SUSPICION OF MALICE.

RATING: An excellent book by an excellent author.


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