cover image Fool Me Once

Fool Me Once

Fern Michaels, . . Kensington, $24 (309pp) ISBN 978-0-7582-1630-4

Dog antics and a dead mother's strange legacy drive Michaels's latest (Hey, Good Looking ), a repetitive story peopled with caricatures. Thirty-four-year-old Olivia Lowell was reared by her father, Dennis, who told her that her mother, Allison, died in childbirth. Content with her job as a dog photographer and a ho-hum relationship with an accountant, Olivia nearly comes unhinged when she learns that her mother recently passed away—and willed her a mail-order empire as well. But a letter from Allison, written 10 months before her death, reveals that she started her successful business with money stolen from a bank. Allison requests that Olivia return her share of the money, then find her partners-in-crime and make them do the same. With the help of the romantic interest, Jeff Bannerman, a lawyer who's handler to a pesky Yorkshire terrier named Cecil, Olivia sets about resentfully fulfilling her mom's last wishes. The book's final third deals largely with the threat of having Cecil taken away, a plot twist that feels like an afterthought, as does the truth that's revealed about the robbery and its aftermath. This novel may provide escapism for dog lovers, but pat lessons and slipshod plotting will disappoint others. (Aug. 29)