Newspaper editor Mark Manning's company is about to merge with a conglomerate headed by Gillian Reece, an arrogant and self-absorbed businesswoman who will stop at nothing to ensure her dominance over others in the business world as well in her own marriage. Her husband, Esmond, remains with her as a matter of convenience, although he is somewhat smitten with another, thereby adding an air of tension in this tentative relationship.
Suspicions abound about Gillian's dealings and she begins to distance herself from all around. Gillian also has a past and quite stormy relationship with Mark's features editor Glee Savage. Gillian doesn't help matters by literally slapping all that incur her wrath, including Todd Draper, the man hired to restore her new mansion and a friend/associate of Mark's partner Neil. Gillian eventually dies as a result of an accidental fall.
However, a mysterious letter emerges, opening the door suggesting that Reece's death may have been a case of murder. When that question arises, the suspects include her husband, Savage, Draper, the accountant that discovered her unsavory dealings, as well as Manning's lover, Neil.
Mark, with the assistance of his sheriff friend Doug, seeks to determine the killer's identity. He must also deal with his relationship with his lover, Neil, and the attraction felt toward the visiting Draper.
This report prepared by Reginald D. Garrard
St. Martin's, August 2004, 23.95, 288 pp.
The two largest companies in Dumont County, Wisconsin, Quatro Press and Ashton Mills, are engaging in a friendly merger depending on the due diligence findings of independent auditor Tyler Pennell; the CPA checks the books of both companies to make sure there are no irregularities. Gillian Reece, CEO at Ashton Industries will run Ashton/ Quatro and Perry Shield, CEO at Quatro Press, will probably retire with millions in stock sales.
Neil Waite, architect extraordinaire and significant other of Mark Manning, owner-publisher of the Dumont Daily Register, is erecting a showcase home for Gillian and her husband Esmond. When Mark and his reporter Glee Savage go over to look at the new home, Glee slaps Gillian when she sees her. Over the next few days, Gillian shows her true colors as she slaps Esmond who wants her to keep a promise and interior designer Todd, for not giving her the curtains she demanded. Afterward, Mark and his second in command at the paper find Gillian dead at the bottom of the ladder. The coroner thinks she fell accidentally but an anonymous tip details the victim's dirty dealings that involve embezzlement that could have bankrupted the county if her plans had gone into affect. Mark is determined to find the tipster and the possible killer but everyone who knew her is a suspect with very viable motives.
The Mark Manning mysteries are always fascinating, entertaining amateur sleuth novels because the protagonist always finagles his way onto a homicide investigation. In the latest installment, Mark has his work cut out for him because everyone who knew the victim had a reason for wanting her dead. The loving relationship between the hero and his partner adds an extra layer of depth to a creative who-done-it. Michael Craft deserves a Lambda award for this book and the whole series
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner