BOOK REVIEW: A FRAUDULENT ENCOUNTER (Book 3, The Crime & Passion Stalk City Hall Series) by Valerie Clarizio

Set in a small town, A Fraudulent Encounter is the story of two people, both of whom have known and been shaped by heartache. Dax Mertz, once a big city cop, lost his wife and unborn child to violence. Devastated, he has retreated to this small town and now serves as its Chief of Police. Natasha Kane has also known sadness. Her marriage of almost seventeen years is over, her husband opting to leave for a woman twenty years younger. Natasha is also a city employee, serving as it’s Treasurer. In their respective roles, Dax and Natasha must often work together. But it is a chance encounter at a counseling center in the city that sets off a spark in each of these two wounded people – a spark they both thought was dead. Beginning a new romance is never easy, but for these two it is next to impossible. Dax is overwhelmed by guilt at just the thought of betraying his late wife and Natasha’s experience has left her distrustful of all men and fearful of a new relationship.

But the attraction between Dax and Natasha is something neither can deny so they tentatively embark on the beginnings of a clandestine relationship. However, they are soon put to the test when the city they work for is scammed out of approximately a quarter million dollars and, right on the heels of this discovery, it’s revealed that the town has also been the victim of an embezzler. Dax must investigate and is chagrinned to find that the prime suspects in both these crimes are Natasha’s two employees and Natasha herself. This naturally throws a wrench into their relationship.

I really enjoyed this novel. The characters are fascinating and the reader is easily pulled into their plight. The workings of the treasurers’ department are well-thought out and precisely portrayed as Dax and his team search to ferret out the embezzler. The reader is kept on edge, wondering if somehow Dax and Natasha can salvage their relationship amid accusations and innuendo. A compelling read, A Fraudulent Encounter is highly recommended for those readers who enjoy second-chance romances, contemporary romances combined with mystery and intrigue, and in-depth character studies. I note that this is Book 3 in Author Clarizio’s The Crime and Passion Stalk City Hall Series and I’ll be looking forward to checking out the other volumes.

A Fraudulent Encounter is currently on pre-order at Amazon. Publication date is September 22, 2022. To pre-order your copy, click below.

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