Love Her Madly
Mary-Ann Tirone Smith
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Buy *Love Her Madly* online

Love Her Madly

Mary-Ann Tirone Smith
Henry Holt
320 pages
January 2002
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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FBI agent Poppy Rice is a determined woman. Once she gets her mind set on something, nothing -- absolutely nothing -- will get in her way to see it achieved. As a chronic insomniac, Poppy tapes news shows to watch during the wee hours, and one evening she pops in the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather. Watching Rather interview a woman who is on Texas’ death row, Poppy suddenly realizes that the woman’s hands seem far too small to have wielded an axe, and certainly not with the viciousness that the crime scene indicated. The axe-murderess, named Rona Leigh Glueck, is to be executed in ten days. Poppy thinks something is odd and digs out Rona Leigh’s case file. She finds that the FBI crime lab declined to aid her public defender due to incorrect protocol -- the same crime lab that Poppy personally restructured and which is now one of the best in the country.

Poppy receives approval from her supervisor to travel to Texas to talk to the condemned woman. But Rona, who is more than happy to die for the crimes she confessed to, is not very interested in Poppy’s claim that she did not perpetrate the crime at all, that she could not have wielded the axe that did the dirty deed seventeen years earlier. Since then, Rona Leigh has found the Lord and spouts nothing but peace and love and acceptance.

Until, that is, the moment of her execution. Somehow, Rona Leigh survives the lethal injection, and en route to a local hospital is kidnapped by a group of fanatics bent on claiming that Rona Leigh is the resurrected sister of Jesus. Determined to find her, Poppy does not give up until she discovers the truth about Rona Leigh and the grisly massacre that took place many years before on a hot Texas night. Nothing will stop her, not the Texas Rangers, not the Governor of Texas, and not the fanatics who are determined to save their new "leader".

Mary-Ann Tirone Smith has created a witty, savvy and gritty character with Poppy Rice. Poppy’s view on life is thoroughly unabashed and frank, and her sometimes not-so-gentle sense of sarcasm breathes life into her character. Poppy is a tough no-nonsense FBI agent unafraid of anything but her own doubts and insecurities, and the author has done a brilliant job in fleshing her out to be not only strong but humane and compassionate. The author’s writing and characterization style is slightly reminiscent of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe with a unique twist, and her sense of timing and plotting is superb. An American Killing, the most recent of Tirone Smith's five novels prior to Love Her Madly, was chosen as a NY Times Notable Book. She has been working on a follow-up novel with Poppy’s character, which is certain, like Love Her Madly, to be a hit with a broad audience.

© 2003 by Denise M. Clark for Curled Up With a Good Book

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