Mira, Jul 2002, 6.50, 400 pp.
The Stonybrook, Pennsylvania police arrest Ted Hardy for the brutal stabbing death of his ex-wife and the even more heinous crime of burning down their home with their two preadolescent children inside. Ted is convicted of the three homicides and sentenced to death by lethal injection.
Ted's younger sister Lea refuses to believe that her beloved brother could murder the two children he cherished. Though she has not set foot in her hometown since her parents murder-suicide twenty years ago, she moves back to her family home in order to renovate and sell it to obtain money for Ted's appeal. As she worries about her depressed brother, someone tries to kill Lea. Only with the help, protection and eventually love of her neighbors Mick Conklin and his teenage daughter Heather does she have a chance of surviving, but their actions place her beloved duo in peril.
TWICE BURNED is an exciting romantic suspense that runs on several levels. The subplot radiating with Lea as its core is a well written prime thread that bring alive the key cast members including a close up look at a teen in trouble due to feelings of rejection. A second theme using flashbacks to the final days of Ted's wife seems more disruptive taking away from the Lea piece though it provides insight to the behavior of the dead spouse. The other segment centers on the legal system's handling of capital punishment that spotlights problems of adequate defense for a mentally depressed person. Jan Coffey furnishes a strong novel that will delight readers who want to know if not Ted then who?
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner