Taylor Smith, Author . Mira $22.95 (384p) ISBN 978-1-55166-829-1

Structural problems and unconvincing characterizations undermine Smith's overlong thriller (after The Innocent's Club; Random Acts; etc.), despite an intriguing premise. At the core of the novel are the disjointed notebooks and musings of young Jillian Meade; the mysterious past of Jillian's mother, Grace Meade; and the investigation by veteran homicide investigator (and rookie FBI agent) Alex Cruz. Washington-based Cruz, in his capacity as a liaison to foreign investigative services, has been asked to interview Jillian, who visited two British women shortly before they were murdered. When Cruz discovers that Jillian's mother has died in a suspicious fire in Havenwood, Minn., and that Jillian has been hospitalized there, he decides an on-site visit is indicated. British-born Grace had always been reluctant to talk about her romantic and heroic past as an undercover operative in Nazi-occupied France. It was there that she met and married an American pilot, Joe Meade, who didn't survive the war, and conceived Jillian. Now, in 1979, an adult Jillian trained as a historical researcher seeks to learn more about her mother's past. Her research reveals that Grace was not the community pillar of Havenwood she seemed, and it also sets loose murderous forces beyond Jillian's control. With Jillian hospitalized and uncooperative, and Grace dead, Cruz must try to discover if Jillian is killer or victim. His investigations, interspersed with pages from Jillian's notebook, provide a complex answer. The novel's suspenseful, somewhat surprising ending is not enough to overcome the unconvincing portrait of Grace Meade that the story depends on. National advertising. (Dec.)

Reviewed on: 10/29/2001
Release date: 12/01/2001
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-1-55204-292-2
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-1-55204-291-5
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