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Kill the Competition    by Stephanie Bond order for
Kill the Competition
by Stephanie Bond
Order:  USA  Can
Avon, 2003 (2003)
* *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

After a disastrous marriage (that lasted a mere six hours) a humiliated and heartbroken Belinda Hennessy moves to Atlanta to start fresh. She throws herself into her job and lives by her newly adopted credo that 'men are unnecessary'! Her three carpool buddies agree and their discussions on the way to work each morning solidify Belinda's new life decisions. Of course that doesn't stop any of them from appreciating men, especially the sexy voiced 'Talkin' Tom Trainer'. Belinda regularly fantasizes about Atlanta's eye-in-the-sky traffic announcer.

Her involvement in a minor fender bender (with a police cruiser no less) makes her late for a meeting, resulting in a tense confrontation with her ruthless, detested boss, 'Maniac Margot'. Belinda's calm snaps. She takes issue with being treated so callously over an unavoidable freeway incident. Within minutes word is out that Belinda stood up to Margo and she becomes Archer Furniture's new hero. Margot too is impressed by Belinda's backbone and offers her a plum merger deal she'd be foolish to refuse, despite misgivings that all is not quite right with it.

Hours later Margot's corpse is found stuffed in the trunk of Belinda's car. While Margot may have had a million enemies, all eyes turn to Belinda or one of the carpool gals as suspects. Belinda finds help where she least expects it, from Officer Wade Alexander, the man whose cruiser she hit during her little freeway mishap. Though their attraction sizzles, each steps back from their feelings, not only because of the ensuing murder investigation, but because both are still working through emotional fallout from failed marriages.

Readers like myself who were expecting Kill the Competition to be a romantic suspense (as per the book's spine) will be somewhat disappointed -- this one falls way short in that department. The author spends too many pages establishing red herrings even though it's no big stretch to figure out who the killer is by the middle of the book. On the other hand the chemistry Bond establishes between Belinda's carpool co-workers is fun, timely, and often laugh out loud hilarious. It gives readers real insight into female friendships and rituals - not to mention the sheer nightmare of driving Atlanta's freeways.

The careful and gentle romance the author sets up between Belinda and Wade is well done and shows a realistic approach to the development of love between two people who have both been deeply hurt. Though Kill the Competition falls way short of the mark as suspense, it is right on target as 'women’s fiction'.

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