3, 2, 1...Married

Butterfly

Dark Water

Familiar Stranger

Mission Irresistible

Nine Lives

Remember Me

Reunion

Rider On Fire

Roman's Heart

Royal's Child

Snowfall

Sweet Baby

Whipporwill

 
Blood Stains
by Sharon Sala
(MIRA, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-7783-2941-1
****
Andrew Slade's three daughters, Holly, Savannah and Maria are gathered with Bud Tate, their father's best friend and ranch foreman, at the customary reading of the last will and testament. Inheriting equally, the real surprise comes afterwards when the attorney presents them with a video made by Andrew before his death.

Prior to ranching, Andrew had been an iterant evangelical preacher and had met each of their mothers while pursuing that calling. He confesses that he was not their father, nor had they ever been adopted, but that he had aided their respective mothers in a time of crisis, and had taken each of them because their mothers feared their lives were in danger. He had documented all that he knew about each of them, and with the end of the video, the attorney gives each of them their summaries.

Blood Stains is the first novel of the series and is devoted to Maria and her search. Years before, Andrew had been in Tulsa to preach and at the rooming house where he was staying, one of the other boarders, Sally Blake, a prostitute, was murdered. Her four year old daughter Maria had been hidden in the room and witnessed the killing. Her last request before dying was a plea to protect her daughter. Her next door neighbor hid the child during the investigation, and Andrew had taken her for her protection.

Maria commits herself to discovering what she can about her mother and travels to Tulsa. She finds the old boarding house is gone but encounters a man who used to work there. He remembers little to help except he is able to provide her with the name of Tank Vincent, her mother's pimp.

Armed with this information, she goes to the police station and is shown to the desk of homicide detective Brodie Scott where she learns that no arrests had ever been made. Unfortunately for the Tulsa police, one of their own had been a dirty cop at the time of the killing and is now serving time for his misdeeds. When Brodie gets the cold case file he finds that this murder had been handled by that cop, and there is no mention of Tank Vincent in the meager investigative notes.

Unknown to Maria, she is the spitting image of her mother and, while in a restaurant, has been recognized by her mother's killer. The killer panics and hires an investigator to track her, hoping to discover why she has suddenly appeared. Brodie locates Tank Vincent and he and Maria travel together to the little rural town to meet him. The private investigator is right behind them. Events start spiraling at this point as well as the instant attraction between Brodie and Maria, as the story picks up the pace.

Sharon Sala is well known to her for her warm compassionate characters, both primary and secondary, and certainly lives up to her reputation for that in this story. The plot plays out, driven by the mistakes and misdeeds of the killer; and the romance between Mari and Brodie comes to fruition driven by the respective strengths of their characters. Readers will enjoy this caring story.

--Thea Davis


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