The Italian Girlvalium

Patricia Hall, Author
Patricia Hall, Author St. Martin's Press $21.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-312-26489-5
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Careful attention to psychology and skillful plotting distinguish Hall's contemporary police procedural set in Bront country. On Coronation Day 1953, popular teenager Mariella Bonnetti disappears from her home in Bradfield, Yorkshire. Decades later, when her bones are unearthed at a construction site, Chief Inspector Michael Thackeray (last seen in Perils of the Night) faces the formidable task of identifying the girl's murderer. All he has to go on is the testimony of Mariella's aged parents and a few surviving neighbors. Meanwhile, Thackeray's live-in girlfriend, reporter Laura Ackroyd, finds herself drawn to has-been actor John Blake, who's returned from California to his native Yorkshire (pronounced ""York-sheer"" by his vulgar Hollywood assistant, Lorelie Baum) to promote a film version of Jane Eyre in which he'll star as Mr. Rochester. Blake decides that Laura would make the perfect Jane, both on screen and off, and begins to woo her. When he learns that she's living with a police detective, however, he turns nasty. It seems that Blake, who's rather reticent about his past, has something to hide--possibly something related to the case in question--and the jealous Thackeray puts Blake on the suspect list. Meanwhile, Lorelie, jealous in turn of her boss's pursuit of Laura, schemes to sabotage the film project. Thackeray has to rush to Laura's rescue in a traditional but exciting melodramatic finale, though a sly revelation in the novel's last sentence--immediately recognizable to Bront fans--suggests that there is still an obstacle to be overcome before the pair can live happily ever after. (May)
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