Until Proven Guilty
J.P. Beaumont, aka Beau, is a homicide policeman in Seattle, Washington. He and his new partner respond the the death of a young girl, five years old or so. They start searching for the girls' family. Soon they discover a strange, abusive religious cult. Angela was the daughters of one of the parishoners.
Suzanne Barstogi, Angela's mother, is dominated by Pastor Michael, the leader of the small group. As they investigate, they learn that Pastor Brodie uses guilt and abuse to control his flock. It appears that either Angela's mother, or more likely the Pastor, were involved in her death. But nothing can be proven.
As Beau attends Angela's funeral, a strange woman shows up. His world is turned upside down. He immediately falls in love with the woman. Anne Corley had watched her sister be killed as a young girl. Now a wealthy woman, she attends the funerals of children who die traumatically. Beau is torn between their mutual attraction and the case.
The case snaps back into main focus when Suzanne Barstogi and Pastor Brodie are found shot to death. Who is the mysterious Uncle Charlie that Angela told a friend about? Could it be that rather than the Pastor killing Angela as Beau suspects there is yet another person involved in all three killings? Beau has to solve this murder quickly so he can enjoy the happiness he discovers with Anne.
This is the first novel in Jance's Seattle based series with J.P. Beaumont. The subject is topical, involving both a controlling cult and the abused, murdered young girl. The two stories - the murder mystery and the growing romance - are cunningly intertwined, each interfering with the other as real life tends to do.
Since most murder mysteries have some givens, I had an idea of some of the solutions to the murders. Usually one of the cast of characters (outside of the main protagonist) is deeply involved, often the murderer. By three quarters of the way through the book I had fingered one character, not because I had the proper clues, but rather because of the constant appearance of that person. I didn't want to accept it, yet there was no other plausible, acceptable person. I kept hoping I was wrong.
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