What's truly wicked, and what's thought to be wicked, race along parallel tracks throughout Beth Henderson's story of the Barbary Coast and the city that was comfortable as long as crime stayed isolated in one area. The heroine, Lillith Renfrew, represents real innocence crossing the unreal barrier. She's teaching herself photography by taking pictures of, and giving a free copy to, the hapless inhabitants of the Barbary Coast. Her good deeds draw her into danger when she witnesses the murder of her latest model.
As Lilly runs for her life from the murder scene, she collides with Deegan Galloway, (whom readers may recall as the mysterious sidekick from the author's previous novel, Reckless). Deegan, alias Digger O'Rourke, immediately responds to Lilly's need for rescue, but must, as they become better acquainted, resist her because he's unworthy of such a good woman. Lilly, however, feels like the wicked one as she falls in love with Deegan in her single-minded search for the murderer and for the kind of justice the Barbary Coast can't usually allow.
A striking setting, believable and appealing characters, a fine mystery and a love that overcomes hidden wickedness all recommend this novel for a pleasurable read. SENSUAL (Feb., 280 pp., $4.99)