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by Lauren Carr
iUniverse, May 2004
364 pages
ISBN: 059530253X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

After the death of his wife, Judge Advocate General lawyer Joshua Thornton decides to leave his successful career with the government in Washington DC to move to his home town of Chester, West Virginia. In this small town he hopes to devote his time to his five children and set up a private law practice. He has moved into his family home and has taken over the abandoned office of Dr Wilson, town doctor and county medical examiner, now deceased.

While the teenagers are cleaning out the attic to make their own rooms, they find a bundle of letters among which is an unopened one addressed to Joshua's mother written 34 years ago. She had never read the letter as she and her husband were killed in an auto accident.

In the letter Lulu Jefferson, Joshua's mother's best friend, hints at a discovery concerning a dead body they had discovered which mysteriously vanished. Lulu was found dead apparently from a drug overdose . . . even though she never used drugs.

Joshua's cousin, Tad MacMillen, recovered alcoholic and now a respected doctor, wants to take Dr Wilson's patients' files, ostensibly to augment background for his patients, but really to find evidence in the files of the truth behind the death of his one-time love, who was married to Wally Rawlings, the prosecuting attorney. He suspects that she had been murdered by her husband. They find that Wilson had falsified the autopsies of many deaths using his information to blackmail the Reverend Rawlings who was connected with these deaths.

After several homicides in the town the state attorney general appoints Joshua because of his JAG reputation as a special prosecutor to find the truth behind the murders. Joshua with Tad's assistance uncovers the connection to the powerful evangelist Rawlings' drug operation. Their search takes them into the past and the involvement of many of the townspeople. The two have placed themselves and Joshua's children in danger. They must resolve the situation before it becomes deadly.

This is an intriguing mystery, full of twists and turns which leave the reader with no idea how it will end. In fact, there is an unexpected twist in the end which will leave you breathless. There is a real sense of time and place with the atmosphere of a small town with its hidden secrets.

It is a complex story with interesting characters whose connections are involved and at times confusing. It is difficult at times to tell the good guys from the bad. Joshua's relationship with his five children -- how a father becomes educated in the role of both father and mother -- is delightful to observe.

Reviewed by Barbara Buhrer, August 2004

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