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Don't Look Now    by Linda Lael Miller order for
Don't Look Now
by Linda Lael Miller
Order:  USA  Can
Atria, 2003 (2003)
Hardcover, e-Book

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*   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Lawyer Claire Westbrook would give anything to hang out a shingle of her own, but that won't happen any time soon. Her boss Harvey Kredd paid her law school tuition and she still owes him years of her life. Much as Claire dislikes the man, and despite his many enemies, no one is more surprised than Claire when Harvey is found murdered.

While she and the police are busy trying to eliminate a long list of suspects, her niece's biological father, James Arren, contacts Claire. She's been raising Emma ever since the murder of her sister and Arren's incarceration. Now, about to be freed, he's making demands to see his daughter and possibly sue for custody. Claire, still convinced that Arren is responsible for her sister's disappearance, vows that the only way he'll ever get custody of Emma is over her dead body.

When an attempt is made on Claire's life, she wonders whether Kredd's killer has unfinished business with other members of the firm, or if James Arren is taking her vow literally. Enter Detective Tony Sonterra, Claire's former lover, and a man who, despite all her good intentions, she just can't get out of her system. Tony and Claire haven't seen eye to eye since she blew apart one of his cases. Still they always seem to run into each other and find it hard to deny their mutual attraction. While Tony would like nothing more than to rekindle their stormy affair, Claire tells him she's already got enough on her plate. But as the murder attempts and violence against Claire escalate, Tony decides to stick close to her side, whether she likes it or not.

Don't Look Now is Linda Lael Miller's entry into the romantic suspense arena, a sub-genre whose popularity keeps rising. While the author presents a credible (if often disjointed and overly busy) plot and an interesting set of secondary characters, I just couldn't warm to the main character, Claire Westbrook. I found her a bit too derivative of many other tough-talking, take-charge, abrasive female heroines already populating the romantic suspense arena. She also made numerous really dumb decisions while chasing down leads - in real life, they would have got her killed rather than merely bruised and shaken up.

This left me wondering if these scenes were simply contrivances for Claire's on again/off again lover, Detective Tony Sonterra, to fly to her rescue. Inevitably they end up in bed together and just as inevitably Claire kicks him out the door because 'jump-starting her affair with Sonterra is the last thing she needed'. I even found myself disliking Sonterra for putting up with Claire's fluctuating attitude toward him. Don't Look Now might have worked as a straight thriller but as romantic suspense it falls way short of the mark.

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