Jennifer Patrick, Author . Soho $24 (340p) ISBN 978-1-56947-363-4

Love leads to murder in this moody, luminous debut set in modern-day Georgia. Grief stricken by the sudden death of her boyfriend in an auto accident, 30-year-old green-eyed beauty Lara Walton heads south from her Washington, D.C., home, hoping to leave unhappiness behind. Soon after her car breaks down near the sleepy town of Winston, she glimpses a dilapidated old Victorian she immediately decides to buy. "I'll take care of you. Don't worry," Lara says to the walls of the empty house. Readers of fellow Southerners Carson McCullers and Pat Conroy will revel in the sensuality and foreboding of Patrick's gracefully rendered scenes. Seeking a cool respite from the oppressive Georgia summer, Lara stops in at Winston's local Dairy Queen, where she locks eyes with 17-year-old Sterling O'Connor, whose punk haircut and sharp tongue set him apart from the town's doe-eyed teenagers and fading Southern belles. When Lara hires the young man to help fix up her house, it's clear that each has more than repair on their minds. Lara's nosy neighbor, Pam Grier, and her volatile husband, Dave, who's the city's district attorney, sense something inappropriate about the relationship, and when Lara is found shot to death in her home, Sterling is among the prime suspects. Also questioned is Eric Teague—bachelor, local record store owner and a father figure to Sterling, who lives with his single mother and twin sisters in a run-down part of town. Teague, it seems, had designs on Lara, too. The plot shifts between present and past as former Atlanta police captain Jimmy Edgars tackles the town's first murder in many years. Blending romance and intrigue, this is a compelling portrait of a tight-knit Southern community where scandal ignites the imagination, blurring the boundaries between rumor and truth. Agent, Jacky Sach. (May)

Reviewed on: 05/03/2004
Release date: 05/01/2004
Paperback - 327 pages - 978-1-56947-398-6
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