cover image Take a Number

Take a Number

Janet Dawson. Ballantine Books, $20 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-449-90765-8

Wife abuse and the psychology of victims are themes of the third case for Oakland, Calif., female PI Jeri Howard, after Till the Old Men Die. Ruth Raynor, planning to divorce her husband, Navy first-class petty officer Sam Raynor, asks Jeri to look for the $100,000 that she believes Sam has hidden. Although Sam denies the sum's existence, Ruth had seen a bank statement on which it appeared; under California divorce law, she is entitled to half of it. As Jeri follows standard procedures for tracing money--checking bank accounts, looking for aliases, seeking third parties who might be holding the funds--she sees Sam's new girlfriend driving a new, expensive car. After the car is reported stolen and a major insurance claim is filed, Jeri discovers that Sam's past conceals a previously unknown former wife who had divorced him for abuse. Jeri's next task, however, is hunting for evidence to clear Ruth of Sam's murder. Intelligent and determined, Jeri holds her own among the ranks of impressive female detectives. (Sept.)