An Officer and a Gentleman
by Doreen Owens Malek
(Silh. Int. Mom. #958, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-07958-3
**
Joseph Walker is a very wealthy creep. Scion of publishing, he is expanding his horizons to important political positions. After a rousing campaign speech, he leaves the podium to be shot at point blank range. Several eyewitnesses identify the killer as his wife, Alicia.

Detective Mike Lafferty and his partner arrive at Alicia’s home to make the arrest. From appearances they have awakened her, and she is seemingly in shock when they give her the news her husband is dead and that she in under arrest for his murder.

Mike is quickly convinced that Alicia is an innocent and is being framed for the crime. Alicia’s grandmother, Hannah, the eighty-some-year-old matriarch of Alicia’s family, attempts to persuade Mike to continue the investigation. It doesn’t take much persuading. Mike and Alicia are instantly drawn to each other.

Meanwhile back at the DA’s office, an election is upcoming and Alicia’s prosecution seems certain to secure re-election for the incumbent. Alicia is processed and quickly finds herself caught on the track of a “very fast moving train.”

Malek has created multifaceted individuals who are truly likeable, and in the first half of the book she permits them to leisurely explore their relationship. It evolves to the point that Mike knows he can’t continue working “from the other side” and takes an extended leave of absence to help Alicia prove her innocence. (We’ll overlook the fact that in a lot of jurisdictions this would result in an automatic firing.)

In the hope of uncovering new information, Mike and Alicia decide to interview Hannah again. Hannah, when pressed, reveals a deep dark family secret, which permits Mike to focus the investigation a new way. From this point on, the book seems to have been written by a different person. Gone is the leisurely pace. In staccato-like fashion, great leaps of faith result in great new findings, and one contrived situation after another results in more knowledge about the evildoer. The relationship between Mike and Alicia reaches a frenetic pace as well and, at times, the story is so fragmented that it feels as though an editor has cut whole scenes.

It is with great regret that I assign two stars to Malek’s long awaited effort. Regret…because it started out as a very strong four-heart book, and then midway deteriorated to a weak two.

--Thea Davis


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