Identity, a first novel by Betsy Love takes an interesting twist when two women bear an uncanny resemblance to each other. One is self-centered and worldly; one is a toe-the-line Mormon. One is murdered and the other has amnesia. It's certainly a new slant on a conversion story.
Wealthy, spoiled heiress, Amelia, and her boyfriend, Brent, vacation in Mexico where their separate agendas keep them fighting and getting even with each other. In a snit over a misunderstanding, Amelia boards a plane to Phoenix where she plans to change planes and return to her home in Texas.
Brent sees a woman he thinks is Amelia leave the hotel with another woman and concludes Amelia is standing him up, so he goes fishing, then gets drunk. While inebriated, he is approached by his ex-wife and the two argue publicly.
Savannah and her friend, Haley, are also vacationing in Mexico. They are both devout Mormons and Savannah has used her vacation to come to a decision to serve a mission for the Church. Unaware that she bears an uncanny resemblance to Amelia who is staying at the same hotel, she unwittingly causes confusion for not only the wealthy engaged couple, but for someone who wants both Brent's fiancé and ex-wife dead. Haley loses her passport and misses the flight, but insists Savannah go ahead. The coincidences continue as the two look-alikes board the same plane headed back to the states.
As expected, the plane crashes and only one of the women survives. That survivor has no idea who she is and recognizes none of the family members who surround her hospital bed. No matter which one she is, someone wants to take no chances that Amelia might have survived. The ex-wife is also discovered murder and Brent is the chief suspect. Amelia's fiancé first buries himself in a bottle, but slowly puts the pieces together, jumps bail and rushes to Arizona.
Mistaken identities and amnesia are not new to fiction plotting and Love does well in setting up a juxtaposition of two lives and establishing an interesting web of intrigue. However, the two women are such polar opposites in character and background that even amnesia doesn't feel believable for one to slip into the lifestyle of the other. It's not really believable either for another character to suddenly fake, in a believable way, being a temple worthy Elder in the Church without someone checking for a membership record. The beginning of the book is erratic and takes way too long getting to the identity switch the reader knows is coming. The whole conversion angle is unrealistic coming on the heels of the excessively negative picture the reader is given of the converts throughout the book prior to their sudden interest in the Church.
Even with the areas I found unbelievable, I was impressed by the author's ability to maintain tension and the great dialog. Excessive literary license didn't prevent me from enjoying this fast paced mystery novel, nor do I hesitate to recommend it to those who enjoy adventure and mystery/suspense. It also has a terrific cover that lets readers know at once that between the covers they'll find mystery and intrigue.
Betsy Love is an Arizona native. She graduated from Ottawa University with a degree in secondary education and English literature. She taught school for thirteen years, but is currently a stay-at-home mom and writer. She and her husband are the parents of eight children.
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IDENTITY by Betsy Love, published by Walnut Springs Press, softcover, 309 pages, $17.99