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Originally published Friday, January 3, 2014 at 5:04 AM

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Jayne Ann Krentz’s ‘River Road’: mayhem in wine country

In her new novel “River Road,” Seattle author Jayne Ann Krentz chronicles the adventures of Lucy Sheridan, who returns to her California hometown to investigate suspicious deaths, an oddly placed body and a mysterious arson. Krentz signs books at noon Jan. 7 at Seattle Mystery Bookshop.

Special to The Seattle Times

Author appearance

Jayne Ann Krentz

The author of “River Road” will appear and sign books at noon Tuesday at Seattle Mystery Bookshop, 117 Cherry St., Seattle; free (206-587-5737;

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Seattle’s prolific and popular Jayne Ann Krentz, who has written more than 50 New York Times best-sellers, focuses on dark doings in the northern California wine country in her newest romantic-suspense novel, “River Road” (Putnam, 352 pp., $26.95)

For the uninitiated, Krentz writes fiction under three names: her own, for contemporary mainstream romance; Jayne Castle, for futuristic/sci-fi novels; and Amanda Quick, for historicals.

The new “River Road” represents a departure from her recent Krentz novels, which have featured protagonists with paranormal powers, and goes back to the roots that initially made the author famous: contemporary romances with strong, capable heroines.

You won’t find any shrinking violets waiting to be dominated; instead, like the current novel’s forensic genealogical researcher Lucy Sheridan, they figure things out on their own.

Lucy has quite a bit of figuring out to do, too, as Krentz sets the scene. First, there’s Lucy’s beloved antique-dealer aunt and her business partner, who both died in a recent car crash that may not have been accidental. Then there’s a long-missing teenage criminal whose body turns up in a most surprising location, and a mysterious arson that destroys a house.

All this, however, is only the beginning. Through her late aunt, Lucy has inherited a crucial block of shares in the powerful local family firm of Colfax Inc., whose unscrupulous co-owners all want to get their hands on a controlling interest in the company for their own reasons. Are those men — and women — desperate enough to kill to achieve their objectives?

Against all those adversaries, Lucy has a capable and sexy ally in Mason Fletcher, whom she met as a high schooler when he stepped in to foil a planned assault by two vicious teens (the spoiled darlings of hedge-fund managers).

Here Krentz gives the reader more insight than usual into the thought processes of her hero, who does not merely sweep the heroine off her feet, but also has his share of concerns and uncertainties. The denouement brings forward a surprising villain and a satisfying conclusion for two people who are clearly right for each other.

Melinda Bargreen is the former classical-music critic for The Seattle Times. She’s a freelance contributor to The Times and reviews concerts for 98.1 Classical KING FM (

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