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Two and one half moon gifSt Martin's Press (Hardcover) ISBN 0-312-25316-8
Barrister Trish Maguire recoils with horror upon receiving word of the death of her good friend, Kara Huggate. But Kara didn't just die. She was murdered. And not just murdered, tortured -- causing Kara's acquaintances to wonder, "if only I'd done something different…" as Natasha Cooper's English mystery, Fault Lines, unfolds.  

Book: Natasha Cooper, Fault LinesTrish pushes for answers -- particularly upon receiving a posthumously delivered letter from Kara. Trish's personal investigation and her self-recriminations lure her ever closer to danger. Only the killer sleeps peacefully, suffering no qualms about squeezing the life out of Kara.  

Yet the questions surrounding Kara's death worry Trish like a pack of snapping dogs. "Why would someone want to kill Kara?" Kara dedicated her life to helping others as a social worker and humanitarian. Kara's life bloomed with promise: a new home in Kingston, a burgeoning career, new love with a mysterious stranger, new friends. 

The Kingston police lean toward blaming the Kingston Rapist, whomever he might be. The rapist killed before and got away. Kara's murder contains remarkably similar elements to that earlier crime -- elements that only the police and the rapist know.  

Book: Natasha Cooper, Creeping IvyDoes that mean Kara's death resulted from a random act of violence? Chief Inspector William Femur fights to gather all facts before settling for that theory. Possibly, weird Blair Collons' fanatic rant about conspiracy offers a key bit of evidence. Highly unlikely, but for the inspector as much as Trish, the few facts of the case only lead to more questions. Who was Kara's mysterious lover? Could drugs be a motive?  

Veteran author Natasha Cooper not only asks, "Who killed Kara Huggate?" but the deeper question, "Who's to blame for her death?" Cooper demonstrates that each pebble thrown into the pond causes ripples. Just as every action, benign or malicious, causes consequences. The author successfully leaves readers with the sense of loss over a beautiful life cut short. And she leaves the characters with regrets, recriminations and guilt for not saving their friend.  

But Cooper's smooth flowing prose cannot offset the rather one-dimensional characters who live only for this mystery investigation. The author weakly hints at other entanglements, but does not succeed at fleshing out these stick figures. And one last nit to pick, although the book's blurb mentions child abuse, the topic appears briefly in the opening chapters, then disappears. 

Ultimately, Cooper delivers only part of what she promises, but she does manage to keep readers guessing. 

Dawn Goldsmith

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