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Book Review of Crimes and Passion by Jeffery S. Stephens


If you are in the mood for a little suspense, you'll find Jeffery S. Stephens' psychological thriller, CRIMES AND PASSION makes for an excellent way to satisfy that urge.  This novel gets your heart pumping and delivers a delicious uneasiness as a tale unfolds that keeps you turning pages. This contemporary novel is an intriguing story within a story. The first sentence seizes the reader. "There was no reason for Elizabeth Knoebel to suspect that this was going to be the last day of her life." With the main character lying nude and murdered in her master suite, the reader is given a peek at the last words she typed into her computer. Was she writing a sexually explicit memoir, a diary, or was she a neophyte novelist with a warped sense of creativity?  Perhaps she was conducting research for a book. 

Before the body is discovered, detective Robbie Whyte is called to talk a suicidal teenager off the roof of a four-story bank building. He meets Randi Conway, a young female psychologist who has been consulting the boy's parents in her role as marriage counselor. Whyte and Conway clash over the appropriate ways to treat the boy. At this inopportune time, Whyte receives a call about finding the murdered woman. 


Whyte impounds the dead socialite's computer and turns it over to a police expert to decipher the hard drive. He and his associates are shocked at the findings, which are related to the reader as text within the plot. Whyte gets "queasy feelings" like a voyeur reading graphic explicit material. While investigating and interviewing possible murder suspects, he involves Randi Conway in the case, when he learns that many of the suspects are her clients. Due to confidentiality issues, she is conflicted about how much she can contribute to solving the murder. The murderer is taking no chances, however, and Randi begins to receive threatening notes, phone calls, and then her office is ransacked. Suspense builds, and the mystery behind the diary deepens.

Whyte now must try to protect her as he sorts out the motive for Elizabeth’s death. Was she playing some kind of sexual game? Did she want to stir up drama? What is the connection with Conway's marriage counseling groups? Or was Elizabeth "motivated by sheer malice?"

Stephens creates true-to-life characters. For example, one of the suspects admits he's been running around behind his wife's back. He says he feels younger women still find him attractive, even though he's "a paunchy, balding, middle-aged guy". What are the women after, he asks? Life experiences? Money? Maybe it’s all about "the story that older men make better lovers."

The small wealthy community in Connecticut where this story is set rapidly becomes scandal city. Each suspect's alibis are checked until the bizarre mystery is unraveled, while Whyte tries to stop the killer in their tracks.

CRIMES AND PASSION is an X- rated Peyton Place with a positive take-a-way. "Life is about taking risks. Risks of heart, mind, soul. Take chances to find yourself, to find the truth.” Expect other great reads from this author.   


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