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Whatever Doesn't Kill You    by Gillian Roberts order for
Whatever Doesn't Kill You
by Gillian Roberts
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2002 (2001)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Gillian Roberts is best known for her Philadelphia-based Amanda Pepper series. Whatever Doesn't Kill You is the second of a new series about a PI firm run by Emma Howe. In the first episode, the gruff and demanding Emma, against her own judgement, hired young, sensitive single mother, Bille August, who was desperate for a job. Aside from Billie's sex, their relationship is reminiscent of the early A. A. Fair mysteries featuring no-nonsense Bertha Cool and her employee, PI Donald Lam.

This time, the firm has been hired by a lawyer representing a young man of limited intellectual ability. He is accused of the murder of a young woman, Tracy, who had been his best friend and defender since fifth grade. Though the evidence against Gavin is circumstantial, it is convincing and his case is not helped by prejudice against his wealthy family. Emma hands over the job of interviewing Gavin's acquaintances to Billie, while herself taking on the case of an adopted young woman in search of her birth mother.

Billie's investigation takes her to a Marine Mammal Center, the Whynot llama farm, a valuable emerald ring left behind by Tracy, and a confrontation with a killer. Her boss's pursuit of an elusive trail leads her to 'an earthquake in Emma's personal landscape, heaving moss-grown fixtures every which way', and to a reluctant respect for her employee. While it's clear that the incompatible pair will always have their differences, this episode developed their relationship, as Emma finally learned that the truth she has always worshipped is a 'fog with no hard edges'.

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