cover image WITH MALICE


Rachel Lee, . . Mira, $6.50 (384pp) ISBN 978-1-55166-658-7

Veteran romance author Lee (aka Sue Civil-Brown) dishes up a messy platter of sex, lies and politics in her latest tale (after July Thunder), involving a double murder at the Tampa, Fla., home of Senator Grant Lawrence, a single dad and presidential hopeful. One victim is an exotic dancer who was romantically involved with Grant a few months earlier; the other is the senator's devoted 75-year-old nanny. Before the crime can be reported to the authorities, Grant's well-meaning aide removes the dancer's body, hoping to protect the senator from scandal. To homicide detective Karen Sweeney, the murder appears to be an interrupted burglary of the senator's files, which contain information on a controversial bill. Lots of folks would like to see the bill fail since it would have a negative financial impact on sugar cane growers in the Everglades, and it's up to Karen to find out who has the most to lose. Karen and Grant cruise the Washington, D.C., social scene, their attraction growing with every clue uncovered, but the situation escalates when Grant's two young daughters are kidnapped. The investigation takes a while to build up steam, and most of the secondary characters are merely fillers. Nevertheless, the protagonists are nicely delineated, and Lee succeeds in turning a dry topic—the creation of Senate bills—into a compelling source of conflict. (Feb.)