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by Jeff Abbott
Onyx, October 2001
404 pages
ISBN: 0451410106

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Jeff Abbott has been absent from the mystery scene for far too long and A Kiss Gone Bad shows he has not lost his touch. The son of a local state senator is found dead on a boat in the Port Leo marina from a single gunshot through the mouth and into the brain. The local police find a stack of porno films, in which Pete Hubble, the deceased, had starred. Whit Mosley, the newly appointed Justice of the Peace, doesn't think Pete would have committed suicide, and neither does his co-star and director, Velvet Mojo. Claudia Salazar, one of Port Leo's police force also thinks that suicide was unlikely.

Whit and Claudia, and an apparently disreputable friend of Whit's, Gooch, refuse to believe that Pete was a suicide. He had just returned to Port Leo and was going to try and get custody of his son, Sam. Whit tries to find out what evidence Pete would have that would enable him to reclaim Sam from his ex-wife, who is his mother's aide.

Tangled relationships abound. What happened to Pete's brother who had disappeared many years before? Why does the chief of police take Claudia off the case? What has happened to the young girls who have disappeared in the Port Leo area recently? Does Whit have a chance to be elected Justice of the Peace in the next election? Why did Claudia recently divorce her Texas State Trooper husband? Who is the mysterious Blade?

Almost from the beginning, you think you know the solutions to all the questions raised by the author in this thriller, but Abbott keeps fooling the reader, even while playing fair. The puzzle isn't as important in this one as the people. In his last series, I called the last book an example of Texas Gothic. He's continuing the tradition in this new one.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, November 2001

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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