Laurie Bretonís Black Widow starts off with a bang. In the seven-page prologue we are introduced to Michael and Kathryn McAllister, a young couple living in the small town of Elba, North Carolina. Michael is on his way home from a business trip with exciting news to tell Kathryn, but before he gets to tell her, he winds up dead (the reader doesnít get to see who does it, but we know that itís not Kathryn) and Kathryn is immediately hauled off to prison as the best, and only, suspect.

Fast forward four years and we see Kathryn, who had been convicted, only to have the judgement overturned, being released from prison. Determined to find out who is behind the murder of her husband, Kathryn returns to Elba. Michael had grown up in Elba as the son of one of the most prominent families and met and married Kathryn while up in Boston at college. She had never fit in much to begin with and now in light of the murder, even in spite of the reversal, sheís moved quickly from being a Yankee outcast to the enemy of the town.

None of the animosity that is directed at Kathryn (whether it is people trying to run her over with their cars or huge poisonous snakes on her front porch) is enough to deter her. She convinces the townís new sheriff, New Yorker Nick DiSalvo, to help her and as the two of them move closer to the heart of the mystery, they become more entangled with each other. But can they manage to unearth the truth and hold onto their lives as well?

Black Widow is an enormously gripping novel. I picked it up for the first time, thinking I would read a few pages quickly before I started dinner, and the next thing I knew it was an hour and a half later. I was quickly swept away by Kathrynís story, both the mystery aspects and the love story that developed between her and Nick.

One of the things I liked best about Black Widow was the strength of the suspense portion of the story. Often Romantic-Suspense stories are very love focused with a predictable and trite romance thrown in, or a full-blown mystery with some sex thrown it to make it a love story. Breton never moves either story to the backburner and each is strongly written and compelling.

A brief warning however, some of the scenes, the climax especially, are not for the faint of heart. If you have a low gross-out or evil person tolerance, make sure you read this with all the lights on and something sweet and wholesome nearby to take your mind off of it when youíre done. However, if you are a jaded, young person who grew up thinking that Nightmare on Elm Street was the coolest movie ever, this will be right up your alley.

This book is available from Barnes and Noble by clicking on the picture above, but you can order it even faster through the publisher, the Neighborhood Press Three to five weeks is far too long to wait for a book this good!

--A.B.

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