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by Jennifer Apodaca
Kensington, May 2004
292 pages
ISBN: 0758204493

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Samantha Shaw retired from the soccer mom scene long ago, so when Janie, the ex-wife of charismatic coach Chad Tuggle, turns up asking for help to prove that Chad's stolen money from the soccer club, Sam's a bit surprised to see her.

Heart Mates, Sam's faltering dating service, hasn't had a new client in several days and Sam's tired of reading romance novels and doing her nails. Besides, Sam feels a kind of kinship with Janie. Chad Tuggle's infidelity was the cause of Janie's divorce. Sam knows the pain of being cheated on herself, so she's more than willing to help Janie even the score a little.

She quickly manages to find out that $16,000 is missing from the soccer account but before she can dig any deeper Chad is murdered. Gabe Pulizzi, Sam's hunky boyfriend, is a private detective and Sam practices her investigatory powers under his license. As Sam begins to try to understand Chad's murder Gabe warns her off. It turns out he's taken Dara, Chad's new girlfriend, as a client and conflict of interest precludes Sam's involvement with the case.

Needless to say, it takes more than professional ethics to keep Sam off a case. As she tries desperately to juggle the needs of her two sons with those of her wacky Heart Mates clients, Sam finds herself working harder than ever to get to the bottom of Chad's murder.

It's easy to see what Apodaca is doing here. Not only does our sleuth run a dating service, she also reviews romance novels for a magazine, AND holds the power of exposure over a sexy male homicide detective who writes the stuff. OK. We get it. This novel is supposed to appeal to fans of both mystery and romance novels.

But the fun doesn't stop there. Not only does our heroine dress provocatively, she's also 'updated her look' by getting breast implants and blonde hair using her dead husband's insurance money to pay the bills. What's more, she's not afraid to use her new breasts for entrée into a man's computer but then she's shocked, shocked, I tell you, when he makes a clumsy pass at her. Which she repels by squirting whip cream from a can into his mouth. You get the idea. It's all just a little too much. In trying to take Evanovich, et al to another level, Apodaca has succeeded in creating a caricature of the whole sub-genre, and I don't mean that in a good way.

There's a Publishers Weekly quote on the cover that says, "one can almost hear Miss Marple saying, 'You go , girl.'" I think they're very wrong about that. Upon hearing this story, I'm certain that Miss Marple would cringe ever so delicately and say, "Oh, dear."

Reviewed by Carroll Johnson, June 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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