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As Good as Dead    by Beverly Barton order for
As Good as Dead
by Beverly Barton
Order:  USA  Can
Zebra, 2004 (2004)
* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

In the foothills of the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, two redheaded women meet to determine through DNA testing whether they are twin sisters. Reve was discovered in a dumpster, and adopted in infancy by the wealthy Sorrell family of Chattanooga. Jazzy (Jasmine) was found abandoned in the woods, and raised by Aunt Sally Talbot. Reve's life as a wealthy socialite and businesswoman is in contrast to Jazzy's. The latter was brought up simply, yet commendably established a bar, 'Jazzy's Joint', and an eatery, 'Jasmine's Restaurant', in her hometown. After the tests prove conclusively that Reve and Jazzy are twins, they question Aunt Sally and others about their history. Reve also hires a private investigator from Chattanooga to search out the truth.

A psychotic, serial killer has killed twenty women so far. He rapes female redheads, strangles them leaving a braided black ribbon on the victim's neck, and dumps the bodies in water. This ritualistic assailant has set evil, watchful eyes on Reve and Jazzy. And whoever left the twins for dead thirty years before is adamant about keeping their secrets. The sisters are in great danger. As carefully as they are watched over, they inevitably encounter the assailant (or assailants, is there more than one? If so, are they connected to each other?) Jazzy and Caleb (the grandson of wealthy 'Big Jim' and his wife Miss Reba Upton) are engaged to be married, against the grandmother's wishes. Reve and Sheriff Jacob Butler develop an intense dislike for each other, yet with all the tension of underlying attraction. Others central to the story are Chief of Police Dallas Madoc and his wife Genny (who has the 'gift of sight'), and the enterprising MacKinnon family.

Beverly Barton answers lingering questions in this conclusion to the Cherokee Point trilogy, though the book is also a fine stand-alone read. Albeit suspenseful, unnecessary incidental detail and too many characters (interspersed with too many trysts) slow down the story. The glue that holds it together is the suspense about the perp's identity and motivation, the growing relationships amongst Reve, Jazzy, Caleb, and Jacob, and the intensity of learning about the sisters' family history. The ending offers clinching surprises. All in all, As Good as Dead is a good read for those who enjoy romantic mystery or mysterious romance.

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