Ballantine, Jun 2003, 23.95, 256 pp.
After ten novels, Amanda Pepper and former cop C.K. Mackenzie are finally engaged. Both work part time as private detectives while C.K. completes a Ph.D. in criminology and Amanda teaches in a Philadelphia high school. Amanda meets with new client, upper crust Claire Fairchild, who is concerned that her darling son Leo is marrying beneath their station. She demands that the sleuths investigate her future daughter-in-law, Emmie Cade, in case she is not worthy of becoming a Fairchild.
C.K. quickly uncovers disturbing information about friends and lovers of Emmie. She is a death magnet as several died under questionable circumstances. As C.K. and Amanda wonder if Emmie is dangerous, their client suddenly dies of what looks like natural causes. A seemingly shocked Emmie asks Amanda to learn why several people from her inner circle are dead.
Though at times the myriad of subplots seem overwhelming and require a scorecard to keep track, several of these serve as contrasting parallel paths that add depth to either the lead couple or the prime theme. The glimpse of the personal lives of the heroes is fun especially when Amanda empathizes with Emmie on the eve of her meeting the mother of C.K. for the first time. Fans of the series will enjoy the latest entry and newcomers will appreciate the banter between C.K. and Amanda. Though difficult to stay focused on whether Emmie is a killing machine, a death attraction magnet, or a victim of something sinister, CLAIRE AND PRESENT DANGER is a fun private investigative tale.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner