Ken Douglas,
Dead Ringer
(Bootleg, 2003)

Margo Kenyon is the divorced mother of an 8-year-old girl, Jasmine, and her ex-husband is a controlling and unscrupulous attorney. Margo mounts a petition drive and successfully prevents the parole of a child molester, but he gets parole on his second try. Margo spies him in a store, and sees a hitman named Horace Nighthyde step in, shoot the molester and run off, despite knowing that Margo got a good look at him. Horace's boss, who wanted the molester killed for other reasons, tells Horace to kill the witness, Margo.

Maggie Nesbitt is happily married to a popular local newsman, but has a brief interlude with another man, ends up pregnant and knows that her marriage is likely over, as her husband had a vasectomy. Then, she discovers evidence that indicates her husband is being unfaithful. As she opposes abortion, Maggie is in quite a bind!

Twist #1: Margo and Maggie are identical twins, but Maggie believes Margo died in infancy in a plane crash with their mother, and Margo, raised by her grandmother, was never told about Maggie.

Twist #2: As Horace tracks Margo, he gets mixed up, kills someone whom he believes to be Margo, but Maggie's husband identifies the body as Maggie's. Who is dead? Who is still alive? What will the surviving twin do? Will Horace realize he might have killed the wrong person? Will he have to kill the other twin just to make sure?

This is a very fast-paced, action-packed thriller with interesting characters. There are no dull spots. The plot is quite complex, with many red herrings and blind alleys.

But, while most books require some level of suspension of disbelief, this one goes way beyond what logic will allow. Identical twins, unknown to each other but living in the same community and, for different reasons, ending up with their photographs in the newspaper, and there is only one minor instance of someone mistaking Maggie for Margo? That's a plot hole that would make Mars' Valles Marinaris green with envy. I never bought it, and I never believed the other characters were so oblivious. Horace, who is no Einstein, was the first one to figure it out? Nope, I just don't buy it.

Lots of people end up dead, often in grisly ways. The "good guys" do some of the killing and find ways to rationalize it. They also engage in multiple, complex deceptions, and feel justified because their intentions are good. Uh, what is the road to Hell paved with, again?

I would classify this as a "guilty pleasure" read, as the quality is just not there to call it a good story, but it is fun, exciting and, if you can suspend disbelief far and long enough, it is interesting, but I am glad I got it as a gift, instead of having to now regret having paid for it.

by Chris McCallister
28 April 2007

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