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    THE REAPER by Peter Lovesey

    Soho Press, 2000

    Otis Joy loves his job as Anglican Priest. In fact, he loves it so much that he'll kill to protect it. Unfortunately, with his naughty habit of stealing his church blind, Joy ends up having to kill fairly often to keep things under control. Rachel Jansen is active in Joy's church, attractive, and in a terrible marriage. When the church bookkeeper 'dies,' Joy sees Rachel as a perfect means of keeping his flexible approach to accounting going. What he doesn't count on is that Rachel may be as unscrupulous about achieving what she needs as he is.

    In THE REAPER, Peter Lovesey portrays damaged people striving for happiness no matter who gets in their way. There are really two questions: first, will they get in each other's way; and second, will the police finally catch up with them. Because both Joy and Rachel are sympathetically depicted, the reader is left with ambivalent feelings.

    Lovesey approaches his grim topics of serial killing, stealing church property, and possible adultery with a light touch and often amusing style. As in any good caper novel, the foxes are more interesting and more sympathetic than the hounds baying after them.

    Although THE REAPER well written and intriguing, several plot flaws jar the reader away from a complete suspension of disbelief. If Joy is able to bring in a new accountant so effectively, was it really necessary to kill the old one? If he is capable of changing identities, did he need to kill the Bishop? Although the novel could not move forward without these killings, the motivation appeared to flow from the plot as much as from the character requirements. My recommendation--don't think overmuch about the logic and simply enjoy this description of small town England where the Priest just happens to need his job so badly he'd kill to keep it--again and again.

    Three Stars

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