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For many lesbian readers, it seems as if Karin Kallmaker has been writing books as long as we have been reading them. There always seems to be a new Kallmaker on the shelf at the local bookstore.
Above Temptation is her latest—she’s written close to 30 books—and it is a compelling, well-crafted page-turner with a decided twist from her usual fare.
Kallmaker is known for her good, solid lesbian romances and her myriad fans will not be disappointed by the sizzling heat at the heart of Above Temptation.
What will likely lure new readers, however, is the twist on Kallmaker’s standard girl-meets-girl, chemical attraction-and-complications-ensue formula.
Who doesn’t love spies, right? And while Kallmaker is not exactly a lesbian Robert Ludlum, Above Temptation is a tidy little espionage-ish thriller that has just enough suspense and plot turns to keep most readers guessing right to the as-ever (because this is still vintage Kallmaker) satisfying conclusion.
Kip Barrett, in her pinstripe pantsuit and slicked back ponytail, is right out of central casting–she’s butch, but not too butch; she’s savvy, but not too cynical; she’s a professional but…not above temptation. It’s a super cool mix that lures in the clients–and the women. Not surprisingly. Even the waitress at the diner where Kip is a regular for pecan pie, no less, says it: “Kip’s cool.”
So where do Tamara Sterling and Wren Cantu and Nadia (you gotta love those names) fit into the mix?
Kip’s an investigator who specializes in embezzlement and when her own boss—Tamara Sterling, CEO of Sterling Fraud Investigations—suspects embezzlement in her agency, it’s Kip she turns to—in more ways than one. Or does she?
Kip is investigating an embezzlement of grand proportions, replete with off-shore accounts in the Bahamas, photo-shopped documents—or are they real?—mysterious cell phone calls, photo-shopped photographs in a New York society page paper that prove–or disprove–some of the embezzler’s trail, multiple computer hackings, financial dealings that would make many a trader’s head spin and who-know-what else. The complications and distortions mount.
Kallmaker has added more than her usual sleight of hand to this novel. She wants us to guess and guess and maybe guess some more. (The novel’s one downside is that this gets a little repetitive in places.)
Is Tamara Sterling–a boss’s boss with no room for the hanky or the panky because SFI has strict rules on that sort of thing–what she says she is, or is she as deceitful as they come? Is Kip in over her head? Have Kip’s usually stellar instincts gone totally askew, thrown off by the tantalizing chemistry between her and Tamara that turns a night in a snow-swept cabin into a flannel fetishist’s dream? And what about Wren Cantu? And the mysterious Nadia who sets Kip in yet another direction? And the missing money–millions, not chump change?
Questions of identity–in an era of identity theft, this is a conceit Kallmaker uses to great advantage in her story–are key. The tritest of pop psyche axioms–can we ever know who people truly are–is not so pop psyche when we discover shocking truths about people we thought we knew.
Kallmaker drops a little grenade toward the end of the book that is quite surprising, even if you’re one of those readers able to have figured out all the other elements of the mystery.
Above Temptation is a story where the questions mount and the plot thickens like the proverbial London fog until Kallmaker rounds up the suspects and reveals the truth–or what passes for it.
Devotees of Kallmaker may find her change of venue unsettling. This is very much a mystery/thriller/spy novel, but it is also a challenging romance with all the requisite accouterments for lesbian passion, par excellence.
If Kallmaker decides to shift from lesbian romance to lesbian mystery, Above Temptation is an excellent start—and she can add an entirely new retinue of devotees to her already prodigious fan base.