Mercer (Double Take, 1997, etc.) hits her stride in this third suspense outing for TV news magazine reporter and amnesiac Ariel Gold. After implausibly losing her memory during a car-bombing in a Santa Monica parking structure (which also killed the twin sister she supposedly never met), Ariel emerges with an entirely changed personality. The old Ariel was the fat, dowdy, rather grim daughter of unloving parents; her sister Jane was an unconventional fashion model brought up in the South by a multimillionaire grandfather. When Ariel's memory is erased, according to her friend Henry Heller, she takes on some of the qualities she might have claimed by nature if they hadn't been annihilated by lack of nurture. Right after the crash, Ariel starts spouting quotations the way Jane once did; she loses weight; she's more outgoing; she starts to flirt. With no memory of her job at the TV news show Open File, Ariel has to learn it all over again. By the time the reader gets to the start of Split Image, she's grown rather good at it. In fact, with her newfound charm, she's starting to do on-camera work, and Mercer surrounds her with a cast worthy of a weekly TV show: Henry, her friend, colleague, and lover; B.F. Coulter, her crusty, fond grandfather; B.F.'s man Friday, Sarge McManus, an ex-cop; and a pair of elderly, eccentric neighbors. With all the groundwork laid, Ariel spends the rest of the story trying to help Jack Spurling, an accused murderer, smoke out the person who really killed his wife. But like everything else in Ariel's life, nothing is ever black and white. Though Jack becomes her lover, she isn't even sure--until a tantalizing end--whether he's innocent or only exploiting her. Mercer manages wit and dialogue as well as ever, but still hasn't quite conquered pacing (or suspense). It's great fun, nonetheless, to watch an intelligent author--and her intelligent heroine--advance.