Claire Barrow is a single stepmother, a struggling writer, and the
widow of a good cop driven to suicide by a bad case and police
politics. Noah's daughter Rainey, from his first marriage, is now
fourteen and rebelling against life. At lunch with her sister,
Claire asks for some advice: "Rainey isn't a kid right now, she's a
vat of boiling hormones. Think microscopic messengers in neon
helmets and spandex bike shorts careening through her veins,
running lights, bowling down pedestrians, charging wild." Claire
tells her she will to try to be patient.
But the sisters don't address the fact that neither Claire nor
Rainey have gotten beyond Noah's death. The shadow of his suicide
lurks around every corner without anyone wanting to talk about it.
Then, to add to her already over-stressed existence, Claire decides
she is ready to put her next book together. With one phone call she
learns that her editor of many years has disappeared. Her new
editor is a young shark whose tough veneer and fast talking sarcasm
only adds to Claire's despair. Editors are loath to take on authors
who have worked with other editors, and this one is no different.
She refuses to mollycoddle this mid-level author whose work she
thinks stinks. After Claire's first devastating lunch with the now
despised disperser of rotten reviews, she comes home to find a
threatening dunning notice from a collection company.
She is the victim of identity theft. First her credit cards are
maxed out, then her bank accounts are emptied, and then a rental
car in her name is involved in a hit-and-run. She is afraid to go
to the police for help because she thinks Rainey may be helping the
hacker who has invaded their lives. She turns to Duff, her
husband's ex-partner on the force, and he brings some stability and
common sense to the rather discombobulated Claire. He too is still
grieving for his friend and feels responsible for the family he
While all of this is going on, a serial killer has been released
from death row on a technicality. He had been convicted on the
strength of DNA evidence vouched for by The Calibre Club, a highly
prestigious, invitation-only think tank. Their newest member
reviews Noah's case and has a gut feeling that something is not
kosher. His area of expertise is extremely intense handwriting
analysis from which he gathers clues to the personality of the
writer and interprets the shape, style and content of the
Nobody at The Calibre Club believes that the DNA in the B. B.
LeBeau case was inaccurate. Thus, they are shocked when the owner
of the laboratory where the tests were done claims he falsified the
results of several capitol cases because he says he doesn't believe
in the death penalty. Unfortunately, everyone involved in those
cases, especially the LeBeau case, is now in danger. The scientist
cannot be questioned because he has mysteriously disappeared. Thus
the court has no choice but to let a mad killer go. And almost
immediately after his release, he starts taking care of business:
he murders in the most shocking and tortuous ways.
EVERY STEP YOU TAKE is an aggregate of several interwoven
storylines. Judith Kelman has a clever way of moving from one
thread to another without disrupting the flow. Claire and Rainey
are the heart of the novel. The assorted characters who enrich
their lives come and go. The story is not without humor, and some
of the situations are very funny. But overall this novel is dark,
and had Kelman focused on either the identity theft or the forensic
group's work and their efforts to catch the madman, the book would
be much stronger. Both topics are so fascinating that readers may
find themselves feeling not quite satisfied.
Nevertheless EVERY STEP YOU TAKE is a comfortable, fast read and
will keep readers interested. The good characters are charming, the
bad guys are pure evil, and even though the plot is not as tight as
it could be, the surprise ending makes up for any lost stitches in
the fabric of the story.
Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on January 21, 2011