cover image Just Before Sunrise

Just Before Sunrise

Carla Neggers. Pocket Books, $6.99 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-671-88322-5

Neggers turns out a competent but lackluster romance-mystery, not quite up there with the big girls'. Annie Payne (who is always called by her full name, as in ""Marry me, Annie Payne"") relocates to San Francisco with her huge Rottweiler, Otto, after her cottage on the Maine coast is swept into the Atlantic Ocean one stormy night. She's comfortably ensconced as a gallery owner in the scenic city by the Bay-all warmed up with home-baked muffins and cups of cappuccino-until she buys a portrait at an auction on behalf of an eccentric artist. The portrait causes Annie to become involved in an unsolved murder-and with the murdered woman's handsome husband, Garvin McRae. In a talky finale that precludes any suspense, Otto floors the killer, whose identity is never really a mystery. (Mar.)