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Avenging Angel    by Justine Dare order for
Avenging Angel
by Justine Dare
Order:  USA  Can
Onyx, 2002 (2002)
* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Ever since Regan Keller's childhood friend was abused and murdered by her vengeful boyfriend, Regan has worked tirelessly to provide shelter and understanding for women trying to escape similar situations. With the help of benefactor Lillian Court, Regan has established Rachel's House, a battered women's shelter, and committed herself to the cause. But now a brutal killer, dubbed 'The Avenging Angel' by the press, has started a ritualistic killing spree. Each victim is an abuser of a Rachel's House resident. Regan is appalled that someone has targeted Rachel's House and the women she's trying to protect, and even more affronted when the police begin asking pointed questions about her possible involvement in the crimes. The police set up a special task force, but the killings continue and soon everyone involved with Rachel's House comes under suspicion.

Displeased with the growing publicity surrounding the killings and the possibility that Rachel's House will fall under unwanted scrutiny that could expose its fragile and frightened residents, Lillian Court sends in her worldly-wise trouble-shooter son, Alex under the guise of handyman. 'Alex Edwards' has years of experience in undercover work for CourtCorp and has no trouble slipping into the role of a kind, easy-going roofer. All too quickly Regan finds herself falling under his spell and allows him to slide past all her defences. Alex is soon treading a tightrope of his own -- does he reveal his true identity before escalating lies destroy his and Regan's blossoming relationship? Or does he continue his charade until the Avenging Angel is caught and the threats against Rachel's House and against Regan are put to rest?

Justine Dare has created her trademark crackerjack romantic suspense chock full of great characters, wonderful subplots, nifty plot twists and lots of red herrings. She's also tackled a very timely and disturbing theme, domestic abuse. The fact that Ms. Dare was once a police officer only adds to the gritty reality of her story and the sad truth that domestic violence is still very much alive and well. As both a provocative thriller and a comment about a serious problem in our society, Avenging Angel is not to be missed.

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