Where the Bodies Are Buried

Janet Dawson, Author Ballantine Books $23.5 (288p) ISBN 978-0-449-00198-1

Last time out (Witness to Evil, 1977), Oakland, Calif., PI Jeri Howard dealt with Nazis old and neo. This time, the villains are corporate fat cats. Paralegal Rob Lawter has paid Jeri a retainer for unspecified services, then has died from a fall shortly before blowing the whistle at Bates Inc., the food processing company where he worked. Certain Rob was killed but unsure what he wanted her to do and determined to earn the retainer, Jeri takes a temporary job in Bates's legal department. She also befriends Rob's grieving niece, Robin, who hates her mother's lover, Leon Gomes, a Bates factory manager and confidant of executives at Rittlesteon & Weper, which recently bought out the Bates family. Although Jeri snoops enough to uncover plans to move Bates to El Paso and fire most employees, it's only near the end of the novel that she learns why Rob was murdered. Jeri is an engaging narrator, and Dawson evokes the feel of life in the Bay Area. But, with the narrating Jeri reporting seemingly every folder transferred and every snatch of overheard conversation, Dawson's narrative, with a bit too much of muck-racking and a smidgen too little of accomplished storytelling, never attains a pace required to sustain proper suspense. (Nov.)
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