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More Than You Know
by Helen R. Myers
(Mira, $5.99, R) ISBN 1-55166-504-2
****
There are basically two kinds of romantic suspense novels. In the first, there is a mystery. The villain remains unknown throughout the book only to be uncovered in the climactic ending scenes. The author must be very skilled at plotting to insure that the reader remains in suspense but doesn't feel tricked at the end. In the second type, the villain is pretty clear from the start. What remains unclear are his motives. Here the author must be very skilled at creating an ominous atmosphere and a feeling of impending danger. Helen R. Myers' new book is of the second type and she skillfully maintains an aura of danger and uncertainty throughout the story.

Nicole Loring is a highly skilled art auctioneer at Dallas' premiere gallery/ auction house. When a fire damages her apartment, she bunks in with her brother Jay for a few nights. Arriving home exhausted late one night, she hears suggestive sounds from his bedroom and decides that her best course is simply to go to sleep. When she goes into her brother's room, she finds his body, in a most horrible condition. The verdict? Suicide by misadventure as a result of autoerotic stimulation gone wrong.

Three weeks later, Nicole is a mess. The shock of the discovery and the treatment she received from the detective who investigated Jay's death have left her floundering. When she imbibes too freely at a cocktail party after an auction, her boss asks one of the hired guards to see her home.

Roman McKenna has been moonlighting at the auction house for several weeks. He has noticed Nicole and has found her attractive. But his own personal problems have kept him from approaching her. Roman is a divorced father whose beloved five year old daughter is losing her battle with leukemia. He has little emotional energy left.

Roman is somewhat bemused by Nicole's antagonism toward the police and quizzes her about the source of her anger. Clearly, it stems from the investigation of her brother's death. Roman has just been promoted to detective and decides to look into the case. This brings him into contact with the detective in charge, Wes Willard. The all too smooth Willard is not popular with the other detectives, and Roman senses from the start that there is something more to the case.

Finally, Nicole tells Roman the whole story. Jay had been taking custody of his week old son that evening and Nicole had heard baby noises when she called earlier. She cannot believe that Jay would have done what Detective Willard insisted he had. Moreover, the baby had disappeared. Nicole is convinced that Jay was murdered and that the baby was kidnapped. But she didn't even mention the child's existence to Willard, so great was her immediate distrust of the man. Moreover, Willard has been surreptitiously stalking her after she refused to let the matter drop.

Thus the suspense. Was Jay murdered? What happened to the baby? What is Willard's role in all this? The search for answers leads Nicole and Roman into the steamy sexual underworld of Dallas and into danger.

Interestingly, Myers begins her book by apologizing for her heroine. In her introduction she writes, "One of the disturbing necessities in writing this story was for my female protagonist to take on the role of Everywoman and, therefore, make a good number of mistakes when it came to her actions and reactions in moments of crisis." I suppose Myers was worried that Nicole would come across as a hysterical and stupid heroine.

Yet this reader (who generally cringes at "too stupid to live" heroines) found Nicole, for the most part, strong and sympathetic. Her actions made sense, given her determination to save her infant nephew and her distrust of Willard. I also felt that Myers did a fine job of providing the family background that explains both her and her brother's behavior.

Roman is likewise a fully developed character. His growing love for Nicole, his sense that a cop and an art expert have little chance of permanence, his anguish over his daughter's illness are all drawn by an expert hand. Myers also provides a well crafted picture of a fledgling detective who feels he may be in over his head but who nevertheless insists on trying to do the right thing. The research Myers did into police procedure and politics gives the story an added verisimilitude.

More Than You Know succeeded in sustaining the atmosphere of menacing danger that kept me turning the pages. It also has a tender romance between two people who, though from very different worlds, need and love each other. In short, it is a very good example of romantic suspense.

--Jean Mason


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