Fever in the Dark by Ellen Hart is the 24th Jane Lawless Mystery (available January 31, 2017).
Everyone has secrets. None more so than Annie Johnson. One particular secret has never been shared with anyone. Not her long-time friend Sharif. Not her wife of one year, Fiona McGuy.
When Annie and Fi return home from a relaxing anniversary trip, they find out that a video containing footage of both Fi’s proposal and their wedding has been posted online. And they are now internet celebrities since the video is going viral.
Annie continued to stare daggers at her. “How did they get our personal information? Who told them where we lived?”
“How does anybody get anything these days? You can find pretty much whatever you want on the Internet.”
Turning just as the WCCO van’s door slid open, Annie covered her face. “They’ve got video cameras. This can’t be happening.”
“Annie?” said Fi, touching her arm, not sure why she was having such a negative reaction. “I think we should talk to them.”
Annie opened her door and took off, making straight for the house. Reporters rushed up to her, plying her with questions but she never said a word as she entered the house and slammed the door behind her.
“That went well,” said Roxy, her shoulders drooping. “Talk about a buzzkill.”
The couple finds—to no one’s surprise—that not everyone who views the video is supportive. Threats start pouring in via comments on the website and through email. Even some of those who do support them manage to cause trouble, trampling their lawn and creating enough noise to rile up the neighbors in the usually quiet neighborhood.
Fiona has additional trouble: a secret admirer has been sending her letters since before her newfound fame. He, or she, is declaring undying devotion.
I wish we could get together some night, have a drink. Yes, I know you’re in a relationship, but what the hell? Just seeing you makes me happy. The way you smell. Is that perfume or just your natural scent?
Another loud “yuck” from Cordelia.
Jane noted six more notes all with blue highlights. She skimmed the contents until she came to this:
I think about you all the time. Your sexy body, your breasts, the graceful way you move your hands, your dark glossy hair. You’re perfect to me. Perfect for me. They way you look into my eyes, you must see that, too.
You’re too good for Annie. If it weren’t for her, I could come out from the shadows and we could be together. I suppose I should stop thinking this way because you’re married. Annie has no idea how lucky she is. Sometimes it makes me angry.
“That’s certainly an escalation,” said Jane.
Part-time PI Jane Lawless has troubles of her own. Her restaurant, The Lyme House, is in trouble. She has been dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after a previous case and hasn’t been able to keep on top of things the way she would like. But when her friend Fiona asks for help, Jane can’t bring herself to say no.
Secrets abound in this story. Annie may be at the center of things, but several characters are not being totally honest with their families and friends. Even Jane is keeping quiet about some recent changes in an old relationship.
On the other hand, Annie and Fiona’s overnight celebrity illustrates just how fragile personal privacy can be. The friend who posted the video takes it down, but copies have popped up everywhere. As we have all been told, once something is put on the web, it is there forever.
I must admit to experiencing the feeling of being watched while reading Fever in the Dark. Is the next-door neighbor being a little too nice? What do I really know about the friend of a friend on Facebook except what she posts about kittens? How much personal information do I really need to share with a potential new employer?
The feeling passed. Mostly.
My favorite part of the book is the portrayal of Jane Lawless, our protagonist. Everything in her own life is falling apart. She has to deal with multiple problems at her restaurant when sleeping for a month or two sounds like the best option. Then, her friends ask for help. One more thing Jane does not want to deal with—feels like she couldn’t possibly deal with—but she does.
That, to me, is a portrait of a strong woman.
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Debbie Meldrum reads just about everything she can get her hands on. She was the short fiction editor for Apollo's Lyre and the Editor in Chief of the Pikes Peak Writers NewsMag. She's currently putting the finishing touches on her first novel.
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