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Shadow of Death by Patricia Gussin

Publisher:  Oceanview Publishing  ISBN:  1-933515-007

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader

Minutes after seeing her first patient, first year medical student Laura Nelson is raped in the hospital parking lot.  Fearing for her life, she shoots and kills her attacker, using the gun her husband insisted she carry in her purse.  In 1967 Detroit, the violence of the race riots is a recent memory, particularly in that neighborhood.

Worried that her husband, who is already not very supportive of her medical career, will make her drop out of school if he learns of the rape, she decides not to report either crime.  Although she manages to keep her secret—through four years of medical school, her close friendship with the daughter of the investigating detective, and two pregnancies (the first of which may have resulted from the rape)—the crimes haunt her, especially as her family's lives become intertwined with the family of her victim.

Patricia Gussin's first novel is a nail-biter, but after racing to the ending, the melodramatic implausibility of the story becomes more striking.  However, what seems the most striking impossibility—i.e., a woman with five small children managing to complete med school—is apparently quite possible, as the author managed a similar feat.  But once I picked this one up I couldn’t put it down.