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Strange Children    by Kate Charles order for
Strange Children
by Kate Charles
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2000
* * *   Reviewed by G. Hall

Kate Charles continues to enthrall with wonderfully written mysteries. After a series of ecclesiastical tales featuring the same detective pair followed by a hiatus of several years, the British author has recently written three stand-alone mysteries, one of which is Strange Children. All of Charles' books include characters involved in the church and they often revolve around modern day Anglican church politics, all of which provides a fascinating setting. However this has been de-emphasized in this novel, which only has one key religious character, Father Theo.

One of the best aspects of Charles' writing is her ability to create distinct three-dimensional characters, so that both the major and minor players seem very real. Many of the people in this book and previous ones are involved in troubled relationships, often those between parent and child or husband and wife. Although not quite in Elizabeth George's league, Charles really understands the human psyche and depicts how the complex emotions and motivations arising from such relationships can provide reasons for murder.

Strange Children centers around Tessa and Rob Nicholls who meet as guests at the wedding of their respective ex-partners and are thrown into a whirlwind romance and marriage. As Tessa returns to Earth from cloud nine, she realizes that she does not really know Rob that well. When she quickly becomes pregnant she is flabbergasted by Rob's anger and desire for her to terminate the pregnancy. Then Rob's estranged mother Linda Nicholls is murdered.

Tessa lost her own mother as a child and is grief-stricken that her child-to-be will not have any grandmothers. She gradually becomes involved in finding how and why Linda died and discovers the 'strange children' who inhabited her life. Father Theo is her detecting accomplice, and both eventually end up in great danger as they move closer to solving the mystery. As always with Charles' books, this one is a real treat with excellent characterization and a well-developed plot.

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