Some days I am just in the mood for a page-turner. You know the
type of book I mean --- the ones that cause you to skip meals, stay
up late, and develop cramps in your hand from holding the book open
for hours on end. When that's what I'm craving, I know Patricia
Cornwall and Sue Grafton will not disappoint me. They offer strong,
independent female detectives whose personal lives are as
engrossing as the mysteries they are attempting to solve.
And now I can add Mary-Ann Tirone Smith to my short list of
sure-to-please, thrill-ride providers. In LOVE HER MADLY, Smith
introduces us to a new series featuring Penelope "Poppy" Rice, a
scrappy FBI investigator. Poppy becomes fixated on the 17-year-old
case of accused, self-confessed and convicted Rona Leigh Glueck, an
88-pound, frail girl who hardly seemed at the time capable of
lifting, let alone swinging, an ax and doing in two people. Now
facing capital punishment, Rona is about to become the first women
to die by state execution in Texas since the Civil War. Poppy,
determined to prove that the lightweight former drug addict is
innocent, takes it upon herself to reopen the case.
In the meantime, Rona, who has found God (of course) while
incarcerated, has appealed to the Governor for a stay of execution,
only to be denied. Undaunted by the prospect that the accused may
die well before she can conclude her investigation, Poppy persists.
Both Rona and Poppy are charmers. Rona, in particular, is a
well-drawn character that pulls you in, keeps you captivated, and
creeps into your midday thoughts. She has the same effect on many
of the lesser characters in the story.
Mid-book I uttered an audible "wow" that brought my husband running
from the kitchen. I won't spoil the plot for you, but Tirone
surprised me with a twist I never saw coming…and from then on
the story only gets better. Is Rona innocent? Is she a victim? Is
she a true believer? And will Poppy uncover the truth by the last
page of the book?
If you are a fan of Cornwall and Grafton, or Sarah Paretsky and
Janet Evanovich, join me in welcoming Mary-Ann Tirone Smith to
their elite club. She's no newcomer (she has five books under her
belt), but this series-opener bodes well for future Poppy Rice
books, so be on the look out for her.
Reviewed by Roberta O'Hara on January 22, 2011