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Out of the Dark    by Sharon Sala order for
Out of the Dark
by Sharon Sala
Order:  USA  Can
Mira, 2003 (2003)
* *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

For almost two decades Sam Cochrane has tried to locate his missing daughter if only to understand what prompted his wife to steal away with her in the first place. He has spent whatever it took on his relentless search. But it's as if they've dropped off the face of the earth. When friends of Sam's bring home a painting they purchased from a young 'street painter', he knows he's finally found a clue to the whereabouts of his long lost daughter, Jade.

Luke Kelly is well aware of Sam's determination to be reunited with Jade before he dies. A former cop and now a successful security expert, Luke uses all his influence and connections to find Jade. After tracking her halfway across the country he catches up with her in New Orleans and is staggered by what he finds - a woman living hand-to-mouth on the street by selling her paintings to tourists, mistrustful of strangers, someone who never stays in one place too long, and is devoted to a young boy, Raphael, dying of AIDS. Luke eventually convinces Jade of her identity and an ecstatic Sam Cochrane finally meets his beloved daughter. Jade reveals the horror of her childhood -- of being held captive by a cult leader she knows only as Solomon, and of the ritual abuse that occurred on an almost daily basis and that she and Raphael managed to escape. Once the media gets hold of Jade's story however, the mysterious Solomon is determined to find and silence the runaway before his dirty secrets are exposed.

Versatile author, Sharon Sala, combines two timely and very dark themes in her latest romantic suspense - that of child abuse and of its many consequences, including AIDS. She infuses the story with her usual poignant tone and situations. That might help some readers overlook the fact that there is a little too much packed into this story. Nor do the author's characterizations ring as true as usual -- it's a bit hard to believe that Jade, abused by and mistrustful of men for most of her life, would allow herself to fall in love. There's simply too much else going on around Jade for her to convincingly have a romance with Luke. Out of the Dark is an engaging and thought-provoking story, but not one of Sala's best.

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