A tense, death-row drama--meet brash FBI investigator Poppy Rice in Love Her Madly, the first of a winning new series by Mary-Ann Tirone Smith
Poppy Rice is home in her D.C. apartment with very little furniture and lots of boxes she still hasn't unpacked after five years. It's three a.m. and she's suffering from her usual insomnia. While polishing her nails, she watches a tape of the CBS Evening News--Dan Rather is interviewing convicted ax-murderer Rona Leigh Glueck. In ten days, Rona Leigh will be the first woman executed in Texas since the Civil War. Poppy pauses the tape on a close-up of Rona Leigh's small, delicate hands. Okay, she thinks, so maybe it was a lightweight ax.
Poppy digs out Rona Leigh's case file to find--along with the grisly crime-scene photos--a physician's testimony that glee, not muscle, gave her the strength to commit the crime. When her public defender asked the crime lab for help determining whether such a small woman could physically commit these murders, he was turned away for not filing the correct paperwork.
With the reluctant support of her colleague and sometime lover, Joe Barnow, the relentless Poppy reopens the investigation to find out if Rona Leigh deserves to receive a certificate that will read: Death by Legal Homicide as Ordered by the State of Texas.
Funny and fearless, Poppy Rice is just about unstoppable.
In the first installment in a slick new series, the versatile Smith (author of four literary novels and the quality suspense tale An American Killing) introduces Poppy Rice, FBI agent and brassy gal all around, who blusters her way into a capital punishment case obviously inspired by that of real-life convicted killer Karla Faye Tucker, executed a few years ago. Rona Leigh Glueck awaits the execution chamber, "about to be the first woman put to death by the people of Texas since the Civil War," but Poppy deduces that Ms. Glueck's wrists were too dainty to have wielded a heavy ax in a double homicide. In a book long on hokey Texas dialogue (" 'You learn anything a-tall in FBI school, ma'am?' ") but short on descriptive narrative, the reader misses a sense of place, but the plot drives along nicely, which is the novel's saving grace. Having turned to Jesus in prison, Rona Leigh seems to await chemical death with equanimity. For reasons that are unclear, a Catholic cardinal offers to be her death row spiritual counselor. While Rona Leigh may have been a loose woman and a liar, many now see her as an angel. Poppy believes that Rona Leigh didn't receive a fair trial, but the obstacles to reopening the case are daunting. The governor has promised himself, and his public, that this woman will die. The action builds to a surprising if implausible climax in the death house that should please most readers. Smith may be no Patricia Cornwell when it comes to detailing investigative work, but she knows how to tell a suspenseful story in an easy, colloquial voice women readers especially will appreciate. Author tour.