Going along with the current trend, second-tier romancer Norman (The Key to Susanna, 1996, etc.) has added mystery to her politely competent brand of ladies' fiction. Norman's theme: A friend in need is a friend indeed. Three teenagers make a pact after their parents are killed in a helicopter crash in England on July 4, 1976. Just like a real family, they will never abandon one another in desperate times, no matter what. The first to find herself in dire straits is Annie Aldrich Thomas, who marries and attempts to become a perfect wife and mother in a small English village. Burdened with responsibilities, she begins to take Valium, eventually becoming an addict. Her friends help her kick the drug while she's holed up in a Swiss apartment with a gorgeous Swiss-Italian doctor. The second troubled buddy is Jamie Arias, the rich and handsome descendant of an aristocratic Spanish family. Jamie, the brilliant head of an ad agency, makes a bad marriage to the beautiful Carrie, who makes his life miserable and then threatens to expose Annie's addiction. With what seems an unlimited amount of money, Annie and the third friend, Olivia Segal, plot to humiliate Carrie by involving her in an advertising scam. Finally, Olivia also calls on her friends when she discovers that she's being stalked by a dangerous man in black. Olivia has discovered letters and a diary kept by her father that implicate Jamie's dead uncle Juan Luis in a plot to steal an important art collection from a Jewish family living in Nazi Germany. Though Juan Luis had promised to help the family escape, he had betrayed them. His crimes may even have led to the murder of the trio's parents. Jamie and Olivia eventually fall in love, and, of course, the three friends outwit the stalker. While Norman may not scintillate, she's learned to shape a plot (and drop expensive brand names) with increasing self-assurance.