cover image The Midnight Hour

The Midnight Hour

Karen Robards, Robards. Delacorte Press, $24.95 (368pp) ISBN 978-0-385-31971-3

For Grace Hart, single mother and Juvenile and Domestic Court Judge, it's never a problem sorting out other families' affairs, but when her own 15-year-old daughter, Jessica--recently diagnosed with diabetes and unable to come to terms with her disease--begins sneaking out at night, experimenting with drugs and alcohol, and running with a fast crowd, it's a different story. Enter Detective Tony Marino, on the night that one of Jessica's sneak-outs coincides with a stalker breaking into the Hart home in suburban Ohio. Despite the fact that Grace and Tony initially antagonize each other, before long he moves in with the Harts to help defend them from the still-at-large stalker. Formulaic plotting puts a decided damper on any surprises that might be derived from the love story. The characters must convince a skeptical police force that the stalker's manifestations--messages on mirrors, stolen teddy bears, a dead hamster--are more than harmless pranks. Such material might prove credibly spooky coming from a King or a Koontz, but in the hands of Robard (The Senator's Wife) the chills are nearly nil. With its conventional characters, a frothy ""angel"" motif and a predictable feel-good ending, this book makes for very light suspense-reading, despite steamy romantic scenes and a plot that manages to casually involve working-parenthood, adoption, criminal teens and an ineffective justice system. (Jan.)