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    CONFLICT OF INTEREST by Nancy Taylor Rosenberg

    Hyperion, 2002

    Assistant District Attorney Joanne Kuhlman has recovered her children from the years they spent with their kidnapping father, but all is not well in her life. Her daughter, Leah, is acting out, and something is wrong with the case she has been assigned to prosecute. When attractive defense attorney Arnold Dreiser asks her to give his client--mildly retarded Ian Drecker--special attention, Kuhlman's reaction is to run both from his proposition and from the sexual feelings she has denied for so long.

    Drecker, along with brothers Tom and Gary Rubinsky, are accused of holding up a convenience store. It soon becomes obvious that the brothers are taking advantage of Decker, using him for transportation, lodging, and cash. Yet can Kuhlman offer any special consideration to him, even if he is partially a victim? Before long, the mystery deepens from a simple holdup to murder--and Kuhlman is forced to confront her fears.

    Author Nancy Taylor Rosenberg explores the challenges Kuhlman faces in recovering her life after the tragedy of her husband's desertion and kidnapping of their children. Kuhlman is afraid to trust and finds it difficult to set appropriate boundaries for her children. Fortunately for her, she is blessed with a powerful ex-CIA detective Eli Connors, who feels that he owes her. With help from Connors, Dreiser, and Drecker's mother, the whole truth emerges.

    Although CONFLICT OF INTEREST is an interesting story, it is weakened by Kulhman's rather passive role in the story. As protagonist, she relies to heavily on others to do the work. It's hard for the reader to get behind a character who spends her time worrying about her children and then sending out her minions to solve the crime. Fortunately, Nancy Taylor Rosenberg's writing is strong enough to pull this off but the reader may be left with the feeling that the novel could have been so much stronger.

    Three Stars

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