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by Susan R. Sloan

Pub Date: Feb. 10th, 1998
ISBN: 0-446-51948-0

 Following the success of her first thriller (Guilt by Association, 1995), Sloan returns with an excursive police procedural set in a racially divided northwestern town--a tale that, however imperfect the narrative, yields intoxicating suspense. Seward Island is a 45-minute ferry ride from Seattle, but urban life rarely touches this cloistered haven where crime remains virtually nonexistent. So when the daughter of the town's foremost businessman is found in a dumpster, brutally stabbed to death, Police Chief Ruben Martinez and tomboyish detective Ginger Earley know they're in for a hairy investigation. The 15-year-old victim, Tara Breckenridge, was quiet, popular, and devoutly Christian, but apparently not perfect: She was also pregnant. And, since Tara suffered stab wounds primarily in the abdomen, Martinez and Earley assume the killer to be an adult male worried about his reputation. After months of investigation (and the chief and his detective's blossoming romance), Seward Island's top cops are short on leads, and the community is clamoring for a lynching. Meanwhile, recently relocated Jerry Frankel, a Jewish high-school history teacher, tries to convince his bigoted students that the Holocaust was not a myth (as their parents have led them to believe); and a vaguely depicted secret society meets in a shadowy basement. Then, one of Frankel's students informs Earley that he saw his teacher's car near the scene of Tara's murder, and another asserts that she once saw Frankel put his arms around the girl. Naturally, Frankel becomes the prime suspect, and the town gossips condemn him with all the name-calling the local brand of anti-Semitism can muster. The evidence is unclear: Frankel could have been set up, or he may in fact be a cold-blooded child-killer. Sloan's probe into the nature of race and justice is hardly subtle, her prose clumsy, and her plot strained with overwritten characters. Still, the thrills come one a minute, and they chill to the bone.