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Home Before Midnight    by Virginia Kantra order for
Home Before Midnight
by Virginia Kantra
Order:  USA  Can
Berkley, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Bailey Wells may not have written her own book quite yet, but as the personal assistant of best selling true crime writer Paul Ellis, she's certain it's only a matter of time before his expertise and encouragement motivate her. When Paul announces he's temporarily moving their household to North Carolina to research the twenty-year-old Dawler murders, Bailey's not impressed. She thought she'd put her early years in Stokesville far behind her. Going home will force her to confront far too many personal demons and old fashioned family expectations.

Researching the Dawler case is soon immaterial when Bailey becomes a prime suspect in the death of Paul's wife. Bailey's frustration with lead detective Steve Burke runs hot and high; the one time big city cop won't believe that she had nothing to do with Helen's death. Not even a vehement Bailey can sway Burke's perception that she and Paul may have had something more than just a working relationship. However, that twist in the case becomes moot when Paul also ends up dead. Who had the most to gain by Helen's and Paul's deaths - Helen's grown children who resented Paul's and Bailey's presence in their mother's life? Or was someone unhappy about Paul and Bailey stirring up old secrets relating to the Dawler murders?

Kantra does a convincing job in her portrayal of Bailey and Steve, each determined to keep the other at a distance despite their mutual immediate attraction. Bailey harbors various inferiority complexes, and while she knows she should be past those teenage issues, she still compares herself to her vivacious, popular and perfect older sister. Her overbearing mother doesn't make things any easier as she pushes her daughter to catch a husband. Bailey finds it hard to fathom when she 'falls hopelessly for this tough, terse, intense cop committed to his daughter and a dozen years her senior'. Steve has also vetoed another relationship after losing his wife to cancer, something for which the protector within him still blames himself.

Plot wise, the author does a nice job of setting up the mystery behind a twenty-year-old murder and Bailey's and Steve's role in identifying the shadowy killer. Home Before Midnight is a well-written and engrossing story that proves that Virginia Kantra is creating her own niche within the romantic suspense genre.

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