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DarkEcho Horror
deccoclock by Rick Berry
Book
	Review

Black Leather
Elizabeth Engstrom
Triple Tree Publishing/ 244p / Trade Paperback/ $16.95
ISBN: 0-9716638-5-8
April 2003

One murdered Navajo. Two blonde sisters. One black husband who is either married to the murderer or just sleeping with her. Skin. Sex. Dark Secrets -- dah-dah-daahh -- Black Leather.

Cover San Francisco. Two sisters. Cynthia -- weak, depressive, so overly dependent and childish she has destroyed her marriage and is spiraling lower and lower. Irene -- strong, in control, a top criminal defense attorney with the political savvy to have lined herself up for a much-desired judgeship. Cynthia, currently living with her sister, is separated from Joseph, a caring but analytic academic counselor. Joseph is black, something that means little to the character, but is important to the plot. Irene, after successfully defending a case, goes on a jaunt to Los Angeles. Evidently these little getaways are a needed stress-reducing part of her life.

Her resentful little sister decides to follow her to LA. Cynthia is astonished when Irene emerges from a tacky motel room completely transformed by a short black wig, heavy make-up and a black leather ensemble of thigh-high spike-heel boots, micro-mini, and bustier. Cynthia continues her secret pursuit and finds Irene in a sleazy bar.

Cynthia dances with a Navajo hunk, Warren, and winds up have hot sex in the parking lot. When they return to the tavern, he dumps her and Cynthia discovers him in close conversation with her transformed sister. Once again, Irene has it all. Cynthia leaves. Irene has no idea she has been there.

The Indian stud turns up not only murdered but with a long strip of his dark skin peeled from his body. Cynthia is the obvious suspect. She says she didn't do it. Cynthia, aware of a little kink of Irene's involving blades, is convinced Irene, who is also her attorney, is the murderer and that she's framed her. Irene denies she was ever in the bar. Based on Cynthia's story, Joseph looks for evidence about Irene's alleged double life. He finds it and goes to an Assistant DA who is envious of Irene, but aware of practical and political necessities. Cynthia goes back to LA to speak to Warren's brother. Then he, too, winds up dead. Now Cynthia is accused of two murders.

Even as Joseph fears Irene is guilty, he succumbs to his long-standing attraction to his dangerously sexy sister-in-law. Relationships, any sort of entanglement is anathema to Irene, but with Joseph she thinks she may finally found someone to whom she could commit.

As Engstrom reveals more and more about the sisters, the reader will agree with Joseph and Irene that Cynthia is not guilty. But you'll also be drawn to the charismatic Irene, just as Joseph is, and doubt her ability to kill. Who killed Warren and his brother? Is Cynthia mad? Is Joseph flirting with death by loving Irene? Does that make it all even more wildly erotic? Joseph discovers the hidden side of his own sexuality and Engstrom pushes readers into examining something about their own dark desires. Crisply written, Black Leather is a darkly seductive page-turner by a writer who knows how to put the erotic thrill into a thriller.

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Copyright © 2003 Paula Guran. All Rights Reserved.