Betty Rowlands, Author . Severn $25.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7278-5602-9

A slow plot and a weak supporting cast undermine an otherwise able effort from British veteran Rowlands (Death at Dearley Manor, etc.). The sudden suspicious deaths of two "initiates" at the Release Your Cosmic Energy (RYCE) Foundation seem too much of a coincidence to Gloucester City Scene of Crimes Officer Sukey Reynolds. When approached by relations of the deceased, Sukey agrees to investigate the organization unofficially and enrolls in a course at the foundation's center. What she finds there does nothing to arouse her suspicions further. On the contrary, she enjoys a variety of relaxation techniques that work—for a while. Releasing some of the tension that comes with her job and life as a single parent almost beguiles Sukey into letting her guard down completely. The discovery of a third body—this time most definitely a victim—propels her to track down who is killing course participants before she becomes body number four. Like many a contemporary detective heroine, Sukey must balance work, single parenthood and romance (with a skeptical coworker). That she's especially likable and nobody's fool is a definite plus, as most of the minor characters are rather flat and lifeless. She and her improbably angst-free teenage son, Fergus, carry the book through the first few chapters, until the plot provides some interesting twists and false leads. American readers might wish the author had filled in more of the beautiful Cotswold setting. (June)

Reviewed on: 05/28/2001
Release date: 02/01/2001
Hardcover - 352 pages - 978-0-7278-7116-9
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