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Posted July 4, 2009
Borderline is the second installment in the Toni Barston mystery series and once again Assistant Prosecutor Toni is the target of a psychopath. This one believes that Toni loves her and that they are meant to be life partners, so she stalks Toni waiting for the moment for them to be together. Unfortunately, anyone who causes Toni to be hurt or upset is perceived as an enemy and dead bodies start turning up. As it becomes clear that the murders are connected to Toni, there is some suspicion that Toni might be the killer. Toni's girlfriend, Victoria "Boggs" Boggsworth, and their friends, a mixture of police detectives, FBI agents and investigators for the prosecutor's office, rally around her to try and find out what is going on and who is responsible. The suspect list shifts around as information is uncovered and Toni is forced to use her skills as a psychotherapist to outthink the killer. That might be easier if her personal life wasn't also a mess. Toni knows she loves Boggs, but Boggs seems conflicted and appears to be withdrawing from the relationship. Toni struggles with her emotions as she tries to understand Boggs and deal with the idea that people are dying because of her. Based on clues given to them by a psychic, the group begins to narrow down the list of suspects, but sometimes understanding a psychic's visions is difficult. A mistake could cost another life and the final target is Toni.
Breneman, like her main character, has a background as a psychotherapist who changed careers to become a lawyer. She uses her knowledge of both to shape her stories and blend the legal aspects with the medical. The mystery is standard fare with lots of clues and misdirection and can provide a few hours of light reading. Unfortunately, the characters aren't one of the strong points. Toni is constantly on the verge of a breakdown and Boggs' behavior in the relationship is simply exasperating. Their attraction to each other appears to be based primarily on lust. Except for having sex, there isn't much more interaction between then. The supporting characters are better drawn, but everyone seems to spend a lot of time drinking one alcoholic beverage after another. It's a wonder any of them are capable of doing any work. It's a cautionary aspect when the best character in the entire book is Toni's cat Mr. Rupert. His interaction with Toni as her "friend" and "confessor" is the most realistic and enlightening relationship in the story and provides some humor. The reader will have to trust in Breneman's experience to know if someone as psychotic as the killer can actually function in a normal situation without tipping someone off that something is seriously wrong with her before it happens in the book.
Borderline is passable reading for an afternoon or evening of escapism. It moves along quickly, is written in easy sentences and doesn't require the reader to focus much to pick up the threads of the story. Serious mystery fans probably won't be challenged, but most readers will find it enjoyable enough.