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Claire and Present Danger    by Gillian Roberts order for
Claire and Present Danger
by Gillian Roberts
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2003 (2003)
Hardcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I am a long-time fan of Amanda Pepper and of Gillian Roberts' witty take on schools, teens, romance, life, the universe, and everything. In Claire and Present Danger, C. K. Mackenzie (whose true name we have learned really is C. K.) has quit police work and is studying for an advanced degree while moonlighting as a PI. He and Amanda are engaged, though she's skilfully avoiding the subject of a wedding day, despite unrelenting pressure from her mom and sister Beth. Amanda assists in Mackenzie's investigations; they're a 'regular Nick and Nora'. It's also back to school time again, and a visit from Mandy's future in-laws is imminent - and dreaded.

At school Amanda teaches Lord of the Flies, despite a parental objection to its insensitivity (this leads her to fume that 'Someday, every single book ever written will be on a forbidden list'). Mackenzie takes on a case whose client is an older woman, Claire Fairchild, who hires them to investigate her wealthy son's fiancee, Emmy. This young woman's past is unfortunately riddled with name changes and with corpses. Her own in-laws looming, Mandy is instinctively on Emmy's side, until evidence mounts and culminates in murder.

As usual, the author throws plenty of surprises at her perky, peppy protagonist, not the least of which is the true nature of Mackenzie's colorful mother Gabby. In an echo of the book that Amanda has assigned her students, Roberts also shows us the cruelty that young women can display towards each other, expedited by Internet 'blogging'. And it's fun to see my favorite cozy series take on a whole new direction, as Mandy and Mackenzie head into matrimony and branch out as investigators. There's scope here for much more entertaining reading for Pepper fans.

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