- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 10, 2002

Robert Andrews' A Murder of Promise (Putnam, $24.95, 317 pages) is a mystery of promise, and it delivers what it promises: a ripping good read. Set in here in the District of Columbia, the plot concerns the killings of two mature, intelligent, well placed women. Homicide detectives Frank Kearney and Jose Phelps would be eager to clear the crimes even without the pressure coming down from above. Then a third victim is added to the string and it becomes more likely that they are dealing with a serial killer.
Indeed they are, and his identity, when it is revealed, is so obvious this reviewer could only say, in admiration: "How logical."
Though the plot is superbly done, the book has other treasures to recommend it. Mr. Andrews' knowledge of the District is impeccable, for one thing. But even more commanding is his exploration of relationships: father-son; work partners; man and woman; even villain and pursuers.
The author has a fine feel for the way police investigate a crime this serious, using the skills of specialized technicians in tandem with informants willing and otherwise. This is Mr. Andrews' second book in this series and I intend to hunt up the first, "A Murder of Honor," which I somehow missed. This series is the latest offering from Mr. Andrews, who also wrote several books with intelligence and combat settings.

Reckless Eyeballin' (Fawcett, $6.99, 262 pages) can indeed get a man in trouble, especially if someone else's wife is at the other end of the look. Judith Smith-Levin recounts the adventures of Starletta Duvall, a lass with sass who also happens to be a police lieutenant, and her partner. Sgt. Dominic Paresi.
Star's day gets off to a bad start when the wife of a SWAT member calls her husband's precinct chief to tell him she has just shot her husband once, right between the eyes. When the news of her arrest gets around, she is the only calm person in the police station. Then an early dog-walker finds the naked, abused body of the wife of the local billionaire.
And then things begin to get complicated.
It would take a flow chart to recount the connections that run among law enforcement officers, officials, power brokers and just plain folks, but none of them can be ignored. Mrs. Smith-Levin serves up a delight in Star, who lives up to her name, without ignoring excellent plot development and a well developed sense of time and place. You go, girl.

Everyone agrees Kemper McBride is no loss to humanity, but his wife isn't likely to get far defending herself at a murder trial by claiming he just needed killing. That's how Sarah Booth Delaney gets caught up in Splintered Bones (Delacorte Press, $23.95, 308 pages), the latest offering by Carolyn Haines.
Sarah is a friend of the self-widowed Eulalee and just enough of a pushover to get stuck with not only investigating Kemper's worthless life but babysitting the couple's teen-from-hell daughter.
All this in addition to enduring the attention of the family ghost, Jitty, nanny to Sarah's great-great-grandmother, who is determined to marry Sarah off so there will be an heir to Dahlia House, the family's antebellum estate. Because Sarah is "almost thirty-four" and withering on the vine, in Jitty's view, Jitty has become something less than selective in sponsoring suitors. If it's male and of an age to be fertile. Which can be a bit much for a woman working madly to build a career as a private investigator while maintaining a very old Mississippi Delta house.
"Bones" is nicely plotted, but it is the richness of its character development that provides much of the entertainment. Even Jitty is fleshed out you should forgive the pun and quite noble in her own way.
Oh, yes, the novel has horses, lots of horses, and people who know and love them.

When a man is found dead in the forest, his back broken and his ribs crushed, everyone is quick to fix the blame on Boio, the blacksmith, a huge, slow-witted man with the strength to inflict such injuries.
Fortunately for Boio, who faces a rope with a minimum of ceremony let alone investigation, Ralph Delchard and Gervase Bret have been sent into the area by the Norman king, William, to settle some land disputes.
And so starts The Foxes of Warwick (St. Martin's Minotaur, $23.95, 274 pages), being Volume IX of the Domesday Books of Edward Marston.
Mr. Marston has been consistently successful in this series in developing his characters as real persons and depicting the times and places of medieval England. This book is no exception. The world it portrays is small and circumscribed by ignorance, but even here there is room for intelligence and creativity, which the characters show.
As ever, Mr. Marston pleases with "Foxes," which is a sugar-coated history lesson in addition to being a bang-up read.

Judith Kreiner is an editor at The Washington Times.



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