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Mystery Review    

Surface Tension
By Christine Kling
Ballantine, 2002
Hardcover, $23.95 (304 pages)
ISBN: 0-345-44828-6

Seychelle Sullivan runs a towing and salvage operation out of Fort Lauderdale from her tugboat Gorda.  When a Mayday call comes from the mega-yacht Top Ten, Seychelle is quick to respond in part because her former lover, Neal Garrett, is the yacht's skipper.  When Seychelle secures the drifting yacht, she finds the body of a dead girl, but no sign of Neal. 

What should be a simple salvage operation with the potential for a big paycheck turns into a murder investigation.  The police believe Neal is dead and are treating the case as a double homicide, with Seychelle leading the list of suspects.  Convinced Neal is alive, Seychelle begins searching for answers both out of a sense of loyalty to her former lover and to prove her innocence.  When it begins to look as if Neal might be guilty of the girl's murder and involved in something illegal, Seychelle is faced with the possibility that the man she knew and loved might be a killer. 

Set along the waterways of south Florida, Surface Tension explores the fiercely competitive world of towing and salvage.  Having grown up around boats, Christine Kling's extensive knowledge blends seamlessly with her clever plot.  Seychelle is a strong, independent heroine with an appealing vulnerability.  Secondary characters are, for the most part, well-developed and interesting (especially Seychelle's friend and mechanic, B.J.).  The one character weakness is the police detective investigating the murder his over-the-top bad cop routine grows old fast. There is some premature telegraphing of the villain, but that small point can be forgiven in light of the twists and turns the reader takes on the way to the stunning conclusion.

Ms. Kling has crafted a taut, intriguing suspense novel in Surface Tension.  It appears this is a series in the making and this well-written first novel will leave readers looking forward to the second book starring Seychelle Sullivan.


Kristina Wright
Southern Scribe Reviews

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