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Square in the Face    by April Henry order for
Square in the Face
by April Henry
Order:  USA  Can
Avon, 2001 (2000)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

Amateur sleuth Claire Montrose is back, once again dragged into a mystery. A friend from her former workplace, Oregon's specialty plate division, asks Claire to use her detective talents to locate the daughter Lori gave up for adoption years ago. At the time, Lori was unmarried and thought adoption in the baby's best interest. Now, ten years later, that child is her three-year-old son's only hope for survival, for Zack has leukemia.

Claire is reluctant to accept. What hope does she have of finding a child adopted ten years ago, and from a private clinic that guarantees confidentiality? However, Lori is understandably desperate, and Claire is unable to refuse.

Of course, Lori is right in trusting Claire's ingenuity and determination. She explores many avenues, including information from a young college student named Ginny, herself a client of the Bradford clinic. Claire poses as a possible client also, to infiltrate the clinic, and manages to access records from ten years ago. Inevitably her investigation ruffles feathers as she probes into past adoptions. Claire meets with resistance, even physical violence. Then Ginny disappears, and Claire frets that the naive young woman may have met foul play.

To further complicate her life, her mother Jean has become addicted to TV shopping, and Claire and her sister must stage an intervention. She is further distracted by worries that her long-distance love Dante is succumbing to the lure of his ex-girlfriend. All the same, Claire perseveres, refusing to be intimidated by increasingly violent threats. She does find Lori's daughter and unmasks a greedy and unscrupulous murderer in the process.

Square in the Face is a sequel that provides an opportunity to reacquaint oneself with a delightfully smart and compassionate heroine and her friends and family. We meet again Claire's mother, sister, sister's family, indomitable housemate Charlie, the dashing Dante, and James Bond wannabe Jimmy from the I Spy Shoppe. Henry's mysteries are distinguished by heart - Claire believes in doing the right thing - and the author ensures that virtue triumphs. In addition, she provides information on the bone marrow registry, a worthy organization. (See also our review of Circles of Confusion, which introduces Claire.)

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