St. Martin's, March 2004, 24.95, 320 pp.
In Evergreen High School in Minneapolis, student Cullen Hegg pulls out a gun in the middle of a history class but his teacher Alden Clifford manages to talk the sophomore into letting the rest of the students leave. When it's just the two of them, Alden tries to talk Cullen out of using the gun but the despondent boy kills himself. The teacher is lauded by the media, the faculty and the other students from preventing even more bloodshed, but Alden doesn't think of himself as a hero and avoids publicity.
Several months later Jane Lawless, owner of the Lyme House Restaurant and Pub, caters the wedding ceremony of Alden's son Nick and Lauren Bautel. However, someone placed hallucinogens into the food leading to Nick diving into an empty swimming pool and winding up in Intensive care. Jane identifies the culprit who flavored the food finally makes contact with him. Jane agrees to meet him at the hotel where he is hiding out. When she arrives, he is already dead and the murderer got away which means Jane is going to have to approach the problem from a different angle without getting herself killed.
Ellen Hart has written a very complex and fascinating amateur sleuth novel that has many sub-plots that tie back seamlessly to original theme. Through the use of flashbacks, readers gradually realize how the crimes of three decades ago are the catalyst for the dangerous felonies that are happening today. The heroine gradually pieces together the motivations for the death of her employee and the sprinkling of drugs in the food at the wedding buffet. INTIMATE GHOST deserves a Lambda Award consideration.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner