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By Evan Marshall

Kensington Publishing Corp. 1999
ISBN 1-57566-420-8

Reviewed by S. E. Warwick

Evan Marshall is a literary agent. After reading countless manuscripts, he undoubtedly thought, "I can do better than that," and tried with MISSING MARLENE.

Following the first commandment of Creative Writing 101 (write what you know) Marshall, who works out of a small town in northern New Jersey, has crafted a tale about a literary agent living and working in a small town in northern New Jersey.

The main character is a recently widowed female literary agent named Jane Stuart, partner in a moderately successful literary agency founded by her late husband. She has a young son in need of a nanny and poor Winky who seems to have been thrown in as an afterthought.

The Marlene in the title is the daughter of Jane's college roommate, Ivy. They graduated from the University of Detroit eighteen years earlier. MISSING MARLENE follows Jane as she tries to adjust to running the agency and her life, solo.

I'm ready to suspend belief at the drop of a Maguffin, but as the story progresses, it becomes clear that Marshall didn't realize that the University of Detroit is a Catholic institution. It's just a tiny detail and doesn't have much bearing on the story line, but sometimes that's all it takes to make a reader wary.

The action is a tad too deliberate, and the tale a bit long, but the plot is interesting and the end a surprise if you don't play close attention.

Marshall seems to have created a checklist for different kinds of people he wanted to use as characters and plucked one from each category, some more successfully than others.

Although I'd classify MISSING MARLENE more as romantic suspense than mystery, it would be a worthy companion on a plane or perhaps at a busy beach.

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