THE PRETENDER – Helenkay Dimon
Games People Play , Book 3
Avon Books
ISBN-13:  978-0-06-269219-1
January 2018
Contemporary Romance

Tabitha Island, Maryland – Present Day

Fourteen months ago, Harrison Tate was on Tabitha Island to “liberate” a painting at the century old house belonging to the Wright family.  Harrison doesn't “steal” anymore, as he prefers to “return” precious art that has been taken or stolen back to its rightful owners.  He was just about to grab the painting stolen by the Nazis years ago after spending days tracking the comings and goings of Tabitha Wright, but when he goes in the library, she is on the floor, stabbed, and he hears her last death rattle.  In the background he hears her sister Gabby yelling at the front door, looking for her.  Harrison had tried CPR, but the knife wound in the chest made that impossible.  As fast as he can in his shocked condition, he tries to erase any evidence that he was there and runs away, sinking the boat he came to the island on and swimming all the way to the island where he had been based.  His friend Wren got him off the island and his life has pretty much gone back to normal, but he is ready at any time for Gabby to be arrested for her sister's murder and is prepared to turn himself in as a witness.

After finding her sister Tabby murdered, everyone assumed Gabby did it, even her last remaining relative, her uncle Stephen Wright.  He is bound and determined Gabby be arrested, and after a year in the courts they are getting ready to settle the estate, since there was no evidence against Gabby.  Uncle Stephen sends an art appraiser, Harrison Tate, to value the art in the mansion for estate purposes, not knowing Harrison's friend Wren has been waiting for the murder investigation to be stirred up again.  Gabby feels strangely herself being with Harrison after being alone for the last year.  Harrison grows to have feelings for Gabby, especially when she is attacked and the mansion is almost burned down.

The reasons for Tabitha's reclusiveness is the main point of the story.  When Gabby was sixteen she mentioned once at a party about kidnappers since her family was wealthy; then she was kidnapped. Everyone, including her parents, believed she was behind her own kidnapping, and when nobody was ever found, she was kicked out of the family, and then her parents died.  No one knew what really happened but Gabby and Tabby.  Finding evidence on the island is why Gabby has now come back to the island, but the place where she hid it is empty.  Who could have found it and removed it, her last chance to prove her innocence.

There are several interesting characters including Levi Wren, not his real name, and Damon, another member of the group that Harrison grew up in, the Quint Five.  Uncle Stephen is sure Gabby is behind everything bad that has happened to the family for the past years.  The only other people on the island is Kramer, the caretaker, and his son Ted, and once in a while Ted's friend Craig who will have a clue to Tabby's life on the island.

THE PRETENDER is more serious that the other books in the Games People Play series, following THE FIXER (December 2016) and THE ENFORCER (April 2017).  Gabby must overcome years of putting herself last and protecting Tabby, and Harrison must also deal with his fear of commitment.  With his mother in prison for stealing, that is a huge part of his personality that he picked up from her that he just can't overcome.  A fast-paced and tension filled story, THE PRETENDER will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Carolyn Crisher