My Brother's Keeper

When Diane Rowe says, "Okay, it's official," and admits that she's a bad girlfriend, a bad dog owner and a bad "missing persons so-called expert," she's way off on only the third charge.

Set in New Zealand, My Brother's Keeper opens with ex-con Karen Mackie seeking Diane's help. Karen was locked up for seven years for the drowning death of her five-year-old son. She wants Diane to find her daughter, Sunny, who nearly drowned alongside her younger brother in the submerged car. Now 14, Sunny lives somewhere with her father and has had no contact with her mother since the arrest. Diane accepts the job even though Karen got her name from the woman incarcerated for murdering Diane's sister; work takes her mind off her troubles, which include, but aren't limited to, dealing with her ex-husband.

Diane finds Sunny easily enough in Auckland. She also finds the girl's petulant stepmother, a lavish lifestyle that the family business--a gym--couldn't possibly support and a seductive Irishman who sorely tempts Diane to cheat on her boyfriend. Donna Malane, author of a previous Diane Rowe novel that hasn't had a U.S. release, keeps her thriller's multiple strands aloft while teasing a thread about the repercussions of sacrifice. As protagonists go, Diane is appealingly dogged, amusingly self-deprecating and sympathetically flawed--occasionally too flawed, as when the reader is a step ahead of her. Nevertheless, My Brother's Keeper, shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel, is a consuming two-sitting read. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and author

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