Barry Siegel, Author . Ballantine $24.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-345-43821-8

Siegel is a reporter who has written a couple of legal thrillers (e.g., Actual Innocence) and some true crime books. On the evidence of this work, set in a little California coastal town whose charms are rapidly giving way to progress, he is better at plotting—there are some devious twists here, as well as some that don't quite ring true—than characterization. Doug Bard is a conscientious and dogged detective, separated from his upwardly mobile financial-analyst wife, Sasha, who is not at all happy with the local DA's finding that a fire that killed an elderly eccentric and his young piano student was accidental. When the authorities finally accept that it was murder, they seem to Doug to have hit upon the wrong man as a suspect. Meanwhile the ambitious DA, glamorous Angela Stark, has set her cap for a man of mysterious wealth who's trying to develop the town. Bard is very much on his own as he tries to puzzle out the killer, and meanwhile comfort Sasha and young daughter Molly, who are receiving threats—possibly because of him and his investigation? The balls are all kept in the air, and the real villain is a genuine surprise, but Sasha's role is unconvincing, and the characters are wooden; it takes more than fondness for a daughter to create a believable hero, and a love scene in which a man's body "reminded her of a Greek statue" suggests that style is not one of Siegel's strong points. (Aug.)

Forecast:Despite some nice lines about the perils of progress, this is a routine performance without much new to offer fans of either mystery or legal thrillers.

Reviewed on: 05/27/2002
Release date: 07/01/2002
Hardcover - 509 pages - 978-1-58724-350-9
Mass Market Paperbound - 352 pages - 978-0-345-43822-5
Open Ebook - 280 pages - 978-0-307-41586-8
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