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Aphrodite    by Russell Andrews order for
by Russell Andrews
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2004 (2004)

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* *   Reviewed by Shannon Bigham

Russell Andrews weaves a fast-moving tale of murder and suspense in Aphrodite. Its protagonist, Justin Westwood, is a likeable but bedraggled cop, who suffered a great personal loss in his previous high-profile days as a city homicide detective. Westwood subsequently transferred to a menial position with a small-town Long Island police department, where residents are more apt to complain about parking problems than mysteriously wind up dead in their homes. Westwood's desire is to 'stay under the radar' at work and numb his off-duty emotions with Scotch and other mind-altering substances.

His stagnant small-town existence is short-lived. A young female journalist is found dead in her home and Westwood questions what on the surface appears to be an accidental death. The young woman recently used an erroneous fact when writing an elderly man's obituary, and the detective delves deeper to get to the bottom of the matter. As Westwood begins to uncover disturbing facts that point to a non-accidental death, the FBI suddenly arrives to take an unusual interest in the investigation.

It soon becomes clear that Westwood is digging up secrets that mysterious, powerful forces wish to remain buried. The officer finds himself running for his life, and also responsible for protecting an innocent witness. Westwood must use all his investigative skills and mental acuity to keep one step ahead of the FBI, the local police, and a professional hit team. As he flees and witnesses are 'disposed of' in an attempt to close the doors on his investigation, the reader learns more about Westwood's past and what drives him, and the detective taps into every resource that he has to uncover a dark, dangerous secret.

Andrew's Aphrodite has themes running through it that are common to many thrillers - namely, conspiracy and greed - along with a mentally bruised but likeable main character, and a potential love interest in the picture. The author does a good job of weaving a suspenseful and intricate plot and adds wry humor throughout the story. Mystery fans, who enjoy an action-packed conspiracy, should certainly try Aphrodite.

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