WITH MALICE
Rachel Lee


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MIRA, Jan 2003
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood

Detective Karen Sweeney, examining an alley where the body of a brutalized young woman has been found, is ordered instead to the Tampa house of Senator Grant Lawrence, to investigate the bloody death of an old woman. The old womanís name is Abby Reece, and the reader knows, but Karen doesnít, that she was killed in an attempt to save the woman left in the alley.

Grant Lawrence, still recovering from the death of his wife in a car crash, has now lost Abby, his familyís nanny and his own surrogate mother. Soon there are nasty rumors going around about Grantís past, and if lawmakers believe them, they will ruin the chances of passing Grantís environmental bill. It looks very much like someone wants to destroy the Senator. He is forced reluctantly to leave his bereaved daughters, to do damage control in Washington.

Karen and Grant are trying not to be attracted to each other. A relationship would be unprofessional. But Karen is assigned to the investigation in Washington, because that is where most of Grantís enemies are. Grant must escort her around to meet his usual associates, the people he spends so much time trying to win over. By the time the campaign against him reaches its most dangerous phase, Karen and Grant have added respect to their overwhelming attraction. They will need it, when their purposes clash desperately.

I guessed who the killer was about half way through WITH MALICE, but that didnít hurt the story for me. Lee had to tell us who it was anyway, to give proper impact to the crisis. It is this final section that makes the book. No longer drifting in and out of the action because of the frequent viewpoint shifts, I found my attention riveted, watching five different story threads move suspensefully toward the threat at the center.

WITH MALICE is a serious detective novel with an honest interest in questions of loyalty and justice. The author has also researched these particular environmental issues from both sides. Indeed, when focusing intently on the environmental bill, she neglects bringing to life the people involved with it, so the story goes hollow at that point. It takes Karenís endearing new partner Terry, obsessed with impending retirement, to bring life back to it. The obligatory explicit sex scene between Karen and Grant should have helped in warming the story up; but it is so out of place in a book of this tone that, while it is a fairly moving scene, it simply reminds us that MIRA is a romance publisher aiming to satisfy a romance audience. To my mind, MIRA would do better to keep the book to its appropriate tone, and frankly admit that books like WITH MALICE have broadened their list range. Broadening is a good thing.

Jan 2003 Review Originally Published on WOR

 

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