E. Dian Moore

Review by E. Dian Moore on Amazon:

Robin Finley is just weeks from turning 18 when her mother, Tiffany, dies, leaving instructions that Robin live with an Uncle she had never heard of. She is forced to leave California for small-town, Lorens in Wisconsin.

Eager to raise enough money to return to California when she turns 18, Robin takes a job in her uncle’s bookstore. Her first day on the job proves exciting as she first meets young Justin Landers, the town’s local reporter; she finds Justin to be very nosy and annoying.

Handsome Philip Barnstrum, on the other hand, also makes it a point to meet the pretty newcomer and soon sweeps her off her feet. But Justin isn’t deterred and seems to show up at every turn. The men are opposites of each other, both in looks and manner, and Robin questions her reasoning when she finds herself attracted to both of them, despite Justin’s aggravating ways.

Philip and Justin are equally, but differently, interested in Robin’s investigation of the truth about her mother’s fall from the balcony of Ingerman Mansion. Philip supports Robin’s quest for the truth while Justin advises against it.

Robin is suspicious of the circumstances that caused the fall and becomes more intrigued when she discovers Tiffany never remembered Christopher Renton, her fiancé, after she fell. Old newspapers claimed that Renton found the unconscious Tiffany. He had gone looking for her when she failed to be on time for a date.

Robin explores her mother’s old room and discovers Tiffany’s diary, cleverly hidden inside the cover of novel. The diary tells of a life much different than the one Tiffany had told her daughter. Angry, but intrigued, Robin reads the diary and soon finds that there are more secrets about her mother.

Tiffany had been an 18-year old budding reporter on assignment, researching the Mansion’s history and the legend of Connie Ingerman; she had also fallen from the same balcony in 1851, but didn’t survive. Speculation at the time had Ms. Ingerman jumping from the balcony, crazed by grief from the death of her true love who was returning from the California Gold Rush to make her his wife. Some said he had sent a map to Connie detailing where he hid his fortune for safekeeping until his return, though a map was never found.

Through her mother’s writing, Robin realizes the smart, witty and brave young woman who wrote in the diary was completely changed after the fall. She remembers her mother as scatter-brained, forgetful and overprotective.

The diary also records Tiffany’s discovery of an old letter at the Mansion, which left clues to the location of the legendary treasure map. Robin wonders, does the treasure map exist, and if it does, where is it? What happened to Christopher Renton, her mother’s supposed fiancé? Was her mother pushed, or was the fall just an accident? Robin’s intuition tells her that her mother was pushed.

Meanwhile, Philip proposes marriage and urges Robin to find the treasure map based on the clues in the letter. Flattered by his attention, Robin accepts his proposal and searches for the map, eager to elope with her handsome beau and the legendary treasure.

Justin just keeps popping up though, everywhere that Robin goes. He is with her when she finds an old friend of her mother’s, and the old friend seems to recognize Justin. Robin questions her later and is shocked to find out that Justin Landers looks like her mother’s old fiancé, Christopher Renton. Robin is frightened and gives in to her fear, letting it drive her to make some risky decisions.

In the page turning finale of “Past Suspicion,” Robin, Philip and Justin collide at the Mansion in a last desperate attempt to find the map and resolve the past. And the balcony claims another victim.

“Past Suspicion” is suitable for readers 12 and up and can hold the attention of readers through age 100. I found this novel refreshing and commend Ms. Heckenkamp for not sullying the story with profanity.

Author Therese Heckenkamp was only 18 years old when she wrote the first draft of “Past Suspicion.” I predict this young woman will have a long, successful writing career and was quite impressed with her first novel.

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