An engaging, down-to-earth heroine—a successful L.A. management consultant with a charming weakness for her Porsche Boxster—more than compensates for a predictable story line in Smiley's first novel. When investors accuse Tucker Sinclair of doctoring a business plan, they approach Sinclair's boss and mentor, Gordon Aames, and demand their $11 million back. Sinclair goes in search of the plan's primary author, a brash neurologist, Milton Polk, and discovers not her elusive doctor but a policeman with a Polaroid of the dead Polk. In an unlikely scenario, Sinclair injects herself into a charity luncheon given by the highly suspicious Wade Covington, a powerful man connected both to Aames and the murder victim. Clarification of Covington's murky relationship to Polk and of a convoluted insurance scam take up most of Sinclair's energy, though she finds time for sparkless visits with her ex-husband and skirmishes with her Aunt Sylvia, who's determined to get her hands on Sinclair's beachfront cottage. A romantic interest appears on the horizon in the last few pages, a clear indicator that this book hopes to be the first in a series. With fresher devices and plot turns, it should be a pleasure to see Sinclair in action again. Agent, Scott Miller at Trident Media Group. (Nov. 22)
Forecast: Blurbs from Janet Evanovich and Elizabeth George plus a California author tour should ensure a good start for this first-time author.