Behind the Mask
Metsy Hingle
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Behind the Mask

Metsy Hingle
384 pages
December 2002
rated 3 of 5 possible stars

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An infallible private investigator, Michael Sullivan is offered a million dollars by wealthy Florida nightclub owner Adam Webster to locate Adamís runaway wife and son. Michael takes an instant dislike to Adam; he also thinks that no woman is worth all that trouble or money, but running off with a child is a personal hot spot that prompts Michael to take up the case.

Elisabeth has her own private and horrific reasons for running away; Adam is a kind of modern-day Svengali or Marquis de Sade, who in addition to being cruelly obsessed with his young wife is also insanely jealous of his own son. Fearful of Adamís illegal activities as well as afraid for her sonís life, Elisabeth runs away. She is constantly on the move, trying to evade her fanatical husband. But sheís not reckoned with that human bloodhound, Michael Sullivan, who unearths her and informs her husband. After making that call, Michael realizes the truth and regrets it, but now itís too late. Elisabeth and her son are in great danger and Michael is determined to save them. The last time Michael tried to save somebody, it ended tragically. Will history repeat itself? Can Michael right his wrong?

Metsy Hingleís latest, Behind the Mask is filled with suspense, tension, danger, sadism and some romance. The title is apt -- all the main characters in the book present one face in public and another in private. The villain, Adam, is truly repulsive, and his obsession with his wife is creepy and shocking. His brutal acts of sexual domination are graphically portrayed, which may not be everyoneís cup of tea. Elisabeth is caught in an untenable situation but somehow escapes; her helplessness and fear, her care and concern for her child are poignantly depicted and she easily gains the readersí sympathies. Michael, with his immense sense of honor and responsibility, is a total alpha male, but the author tempers that by giving him an Achilles' heel. In general, Hingle's characterizations are realistic and effective. The whole plot reads like a movie and the pace is tight and dynamic, especially towards the end where the suspense reaches a crescendo. Hingle usually sets her books in her hometown of New Orleans, and so it is with Behind the Mask, in which the tension-filled finale takes place amid the hectic carnival atmosphere of Mardi Gras, presented in all its glory. The combination of careless gaiety superimposed upon tragedy makes the ending truly spectacular.

© 2003 by Rashmi Srinivas for Curled Up With a Good Book

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