Friends in High Places

Marne Davis Kellogg
2007 reissue of 2005 release, Fiction
St. Martin's Griffin, $13.95, 323 pages, Amazon ASIN 0312337310
Part of a series

Grade: C+
Sensuality: N/A

What's a retired jewel thief to do when some of her most skillful forgeries begin reappearing? Marne Davis Kellogg's Friends in High Places provides an entertaining, but somewhat uneven answer to this question.

As the Shamrock Burglar, Kick Keswick, was, in her own words, the most elusive and successful jewel thief in history. While she was a thief, Kick worked for Ballantine & Company Auctioneers, giving her easy access to some of the most valuable jewelry in Europe.

When the book begins, Kick is retired and married to Sir Thomas Curtis, a retired Scotland yard inspector and current head of an elite European crime task force, and the couple spends most of their time living in quiet luxury in Provence. Kick's peace is disrupted when she learns that some of the jewels she replaced with forgeries have begun to reappear, causing problems for Ballantine & Company. She suspects that an old enemy and ex-lover is the cause of the problems.

Kick heads to London to investigate. Eventually she ends up crashing a wedding in Italy to replace some forged stones with the real things. Although Thomas does appear briefly in both London and Italy, this is really Kick's story. While in London and Italy, she becomes entangled with a number of people from her past as she tries to clean up things at Ballantine & Company.

This is the fourth book in this series, but it worked for me as a stand-alone. The book contains flashbacks to Kick's early years, including her childhood in an Oklahoma trailer park. Because I haven't read the first three books, I don't know if these flashbacks provide new material. I found them to be helpful in understanding her, as well as interesting. However, I like the point the character is at in her life right now, and feel no compelling urge to go back and read the earlier books in the series.

Kick is one of the most unusual heroines I've encountered. She is 58, and breaks any stereotypes one might have of women of a certain age. She is at ease with her body, active, and according to others, gorgeous. She dresses impeccably and fashionably for any occasion. Kick is so fully described that I know what she looks like, how she dresses, and what comforts her when she's upset. The descriptions of the food Kick cooks made me hungry. Thanks to this book, I've learned a whole new way to make a grilled cheese sandwich that I'm eager to try.

Without revealing any spoilers, there were hints that a few characters in the book may have connections with Kick. While I liked these characters, the links seemed rather implausible to me.

Overall, I enjoyed my time with Kick, but the book proved to be a rather uneven read. The first third was terrific, and though I had no idea where the plot was going, I was very eager to find out. Unfortunately, the middle of the book dragged considerably. While the last portion did pick up, it never approached the first chapters. That being said, I enjoyed the book enough that if there is a book five in the series, I'll give it a try.

-- LinnieGayl Kimmel

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