This book sucked me in on the first page.
The protagonist, restaurateur Jane Lawless, is at a crossroads in her life: her two-year romantic relationship just ended and her business faces financial challenges. Into her life walks Annie Archer, a woman in need of a job to support her search for her stepfather--and the answers she's been seeking since she ran away from home in high school. Jane hires Annie to work in the restaurant and promises to consult her friend, a private investigator, to see what can be done about locating Annie's stepfather.
And so begins The Mirror and the Mask, the complicated, emotion-filled, seventeenth book in the Jane Lawless series by Ellen Hart. Deceit abounds, as does a wonderful supporting cast: Cordelia, Jane's melodramatic best friend (I loved her!); Jack Bowman, the filthy rich owner of a construction company who turns out to be Annie's sleazy stepfather; Jack's stepchildren: Sunny, a not-so-sunny eighteen year-old and Curt, a tragically depressed fellow who immediately snares Annie's sympathies and her presence as his roommate. Oh, I forgot to mention Susan, Jack's wife. Susan winds up dead.
Following her P.I. friend's advice (most of the time, anyway), Jane exercises her sleuthing talents to unravel the twisted history of Annie's past, which now seems to include the death of Susan Bowman and the psychological issues of her children.
The Mirror and the Mask has an engrossing plot and three-dimensional characters who elicited my laughter, sympathy, disdain, irritation, fascination, admiration, and an entire host of other emotions. It also ended with a terrific and unexpected twist. I'm on my way out to buy the first sixteen books in the series.
My rating: (5 Star) Read it in one sitting, staying up ‘til the wee hours even though I had to work the next day. You’ve GOTTA read it!
The Mirror and the Mask will be released in hardcover on November 10, 2009 by Minotaur Books - ISBN 978-0-312-37527-0. Visit the author's website at: http://www.ellenhart.com/ or contact Anne Gardner, St. Martin's/Minotaur at (646) 307-5553 or firstname.lastname@example.org.