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Last Breath    by Rachel Lee order for
Last Breath
by Rachel Lee
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2003 (2002)
* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

When a young man with aspirations of becoming a priest is found crucified on the alter of St. Simeon's (the church that has always given him spiritual and personal solace), citizens living in the quiet Tampa Parish are horrified, and none more so than Chloe Ryder. A former cop and now hard-nosed attorney, she's even more horrified and angry when St. Simeon's beloved priest, Father Brendan Quinlan, becomes the investigators' number one suspect. She immediately jumps to Father Brendan's aid, determined to protect him and to clear his name.

When Detective Matthew Diel arrives on scene, he isn't at all surprised to find Chloe guarding Father Brendan. Having worked with her while she was on the force, he's well aware of her tenacity and is not too pleased about her involvement. On the other hand, he knows Father Brendan couldn't have a better guardian. Diel also realises he hasn't quite gotten over Chloe, but keeps everything very professional. She's still dealing with too many personal demons of her own and remains very cool towards most people, as a result of ongoing suspicions that she murdered her husband, also a cop, and a man who brutalized her during their marriage.

The case progresses slowly and the few leads that are revealed are ones purposely left by the killer or killers, clues pointing to Father Brendan during the time he served as chaplain for the navy. Matt and Chloe join forces and soon realise it wasn't young Steve King who was the target, but rather Father Brendan. But convincing the priest to remain under round the clock police protection is another matter altogether. Matt and Chloe must race against time to stop what turns out to be a much more dangerous and far-reaching conspiracy than anyone could have imagined.

Veteran and versatile writer Rachel Lee gives readers another tautly-written thriller with well-realized, three dimensional characters, especially Father Brendan, a man who loves God and the work he does for Him above all else. She shows us a man torn between his dedication to God and his duty as a citizen to help the police stop a brutal killer. The rest of the story is nicely balanced between well-researched police procedural, Matt and Chloe tentatively re-discovering their friendship and perhaps more, and short glimpses into the minds of a small cabal of very dangerous men with too much power and a truly sinister agenda.

Ms. Lee did leave various unanswered questions though -- let's hope there'll be a sequel. But even without one, Last Breath is a book that satisfies on all levels.
Note: This book will be available in May 2003.

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