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by Jennifer Apodaca
Kensington Books, May 2003
295 pages
ISBN: 0758200749

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

What more sentimental gesture could there be than buying the dating service -- after your spouse's death -- where you and he met? That's what Samantha Shaw does, devastated by her husband's death from a peanut allergy. She soon find out that he was a cheating drug dealer, who actually was murdered by one of his mistresses. Samantha keeps the dating service, Heart Mates, but she loses everything else, including her home, and has to take her two sons and move in with her grandfather, a retired magician, now a computer whiz, and probably the book's most delightful character.

Samantha has taken under her wing a former client, Faye Miller, and will be the first customer for Faye's graphic design business. Arriving for a breakfast meeting in what she describes as her "mentor outfit," she bangs on Faye's motel room door to no avail. A maid, mistaking her for the resident of the room, lets her in. There is Faye -- dead.

Later that day, Samantha is "ambushed" in a supermarket parking lot by Faye's not yet ex-husband. He threatens to spray oven cleaner in her eyes, unless she will help him by solving the murder. A computer nerd, who lost Faye when he couldn't understand her failure to understand his attachment to his computer, he was at Faye's motel room the night of the murder, helping her to set up a web site for her new business. As the prime suspect, he goes into hiding until Samantha can clear him.

When Samantha is being questioned by detective Logan Vance, she reveals her second "occupation," critiquing romance novels. Logan scoffs. In one of the novel's more delicious moments, Grandpa uses his computer skills to find out that the detective writes romance novels under another name, information Samantha is able to use to her advantage.

Samantha is aware that Faye had only two dates through Heart Mates. When she runs the men's profiles through the computer, she learns that they were small businessmen, and, in interviewing them, she finds that Faye's principal interest in the men was in the help they could give her in starting her business. Samantha is not delighted at Faye's exploitation of Heart Mates. She uncovers additional evidence that Faye was not all that she appeared to be -- including an adulterous affair with the local pet shop owner.

Walking a fine line between private citizen and private investigator, Samantha is working part time as an unlicensed p.i., under the aegis of her lover, former cop and now licensed p.i., Gabe Pulizzi, a man she fears losing to Hollywood as he has been hired as a consultant for a sitcom. Samantha's interference brings down the wrath not only of several people she questions, but also of Logan Vance, who is anxious to protect his turf from civilians.

The villain is fairly obvious from the first encounter, and the requisite (for female amateur detectives) scene of physical jeopardy is overly long and a bit preposterous. However, Grandpa alone would make the book worth reading.

Reviewed by Mary Elizabeth Devine, May 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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