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Book Review   |    
Pray for Us Sinners
Dorothy Packer-Fletcher, M.F.A.; Kenneth E. Fletcher, Ph.D.
Psychiatric Services 1999; doi:
View Author and Article Information

by Philip Luber; New York City, Fawcett Gold Medal (Ballantine Books), 1997, 294 pages, $5.99 softcover

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Trouble should be psychiatrist Harry Kline's middle name. First there's the guy he killed in self-defense. Even though Harry was exonerated, he hasn't exactly endeared himself to the Concord, Massachusetts, police department. Then there's the love he still feels for his late wife, Janet, who died of cancer seven years ago. Add to that his young daughter, Melissa, is spending time talking to Father John, even though Harry is Jewish, albeit nonpracticing. And on top of everything, Harry is having major problems with his FBI-agent girlfriend, Veronica Pace. Let's not even mention that middle-aged Harry thinks he might be a tad too old to have a 29-year-old girlfriend.

Veronica Pace has problems of her own. Twenty years ago, right around Christmas time, her mother, Rachel, was brutally bludgeoned to death while Veronica's father was on his way home to Wellesley from a business trip. Awakened by the noise, nine-year-old Veronica rushed into her parents' bedroom and grabbed her father's gun. But when she pointed it at the killer, she couldn't make herself pull the trigger. The killer, whose face was covered with a ski mask, stared at her and hissed, "Until we meet again," before he disappeared down the hallway and ran out of the house.

The murderer was never caught. The case was ruled a burglary gone bad, but Veronica can never forget what happened that night. She is haunted by survivor guilt and fears of intimacy that keep her from committing herself to Harry. Who killed Rachel Pace, and why couldn't Veronica pull the trigger and shoot the man who murdered her mother?

Now, 20 years later, Veronica decides to place an ad offering a large reward for information leading to the arrest of her mother's killer. Needless to say, the police don't hold out much hope after two decades. Harry tries to dissuade Veronica, but she's made up her mind to go ahead with the investigation. Since there were several other break-ins in Wellesley before the Pace house was broken into and Rachel was murdered, Veronica and Harry decide to visit each house and question the current occupants.

While they learn nothing new about the break-ins, they finally ring the doorbell to Veronica's childhood home. The house is occupied by Angie and Frank Circone. As usual, Harry doesn't make a good first impression, but Circone telephones him later and asks to set up a meeting. Now Harry has the Mafia to add to his list of problems.

Soon after Veronica places her ad to find her mother's killer, the story takes several terrifying turns. As both Harry's and Veronica's lives seem to be careening out of control, a 20-year-old murder is about to shatter many more lives.

Pray for Us Sinners is a fast-paced, engaging pulp thriller. The next time you're in an airport on the way to a conference, pick up a copy, sit back, buckle your seatbelt, and prepare for a bumpy ride.

Ms. Packer-Fletcher is a freelance writer, and Dr. Fletcher is assistant professor of psychiatry and director of the behavior sciences research core in the department of psychiatry at UMass Memorial Health Care in Worcester.

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