The Man for Maggie
by Frances Housden
(Silh. Int. Mom. #1956, $4.50, PG) ISBN 0-373-27126-3
****
Remember the name Frances Housden! Editor Leslie Wainger calls her the New Zealand sensation and with this book she makes a memorable entry into the US market. A skilled writer gifted with a creative mind, she takes an oft-used paranormal plot to new levels.

Maggie Kovacs and Jo Jellic are old boarding school friends. Jo had provided a friendship that seemed to understand or at least tolerate Maggieís paranormal gifts. This was an issue that had partially estranged Maggie from her own father. Over a year ago he had died in a private plane crash. Although he was a famous vintner, it was Maggie who had achieved the notoriety form the crash. First for predicting it, and secondly for calling it murder. The police and the press have treated her with ridicule.

Auckland, New Zealand is held hostage by a serial killer. Maggie has begun to have dreams of the bizarre killings, peppered with facts that the police have not released. She turns to her friend Jo, who is now a policewoman, for advice.

Jo is keen for Maggie to share her knowledge with her superior Detective Max Strachan. When he approaches their table at the bar, Maggie catches on quickly. Jo is carrying a real torch for the handsome Max and warns Maggie off in every possible way. Although intrigued by him, Maggie quickly leaves without talking to Max, and returns to the rural area where she owns and runs a large vineyard. As a bonus, the reader is treated to a birdís eye view of that industry in scenic New Zealand.

Maxís former wife had been into psychic hot lines and this was one of the major reasons for their divorce. Although Max is resentful of paranormal believers, the author makes her point but does not have her character wallow in it. This alone is a very welcome breath of fresh air.

After another dream foretelling a death, Maggie seeks out Max. This time she is armed with her drawing of the victim. While she and Max are talking over coffee a journalist sees them. When that same face is found murdered, Max reluctantly begins to believe, the press runs the photo of her with the Max alluding to her involvement with the investigation; and the killerís focus turns on her.

Frances Housden accomplishes much in this book. Artfully, she simultaneously sustains mounting sexual tension between Max and Maggie with ever increasing suspense. Just when you think you have it all figured out, it twists again. Even with this very strong plot line, it is the characters that drive the story.

And these characters are multi-dimensional; always evoking the emotion the writer seeks. A little more dialogue would have made this a perfect book. In spite of the dark side of the mystery, the mood one is left with is warm and fuzzy. Tricky to accomplish, but a real tribute to skill.

Hopefully, Silhouette has a multi-book contract with this author.

--Thea Davis


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