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ON BORROWED TIME by David Rosenfelt: Book Review

A man and his fiancee are driving in her hometown in New York state.  A sudden tornado-like storm whips his car off the road and down a ravine.  When he regains consciousness, he’s surrounded by police and emergency technicians, and he frantically asks them to help him find his fiancee.  But she’s nowhere to be found.

That’s the hook of On Borrowed Time by David Rosenfelt. Richard Kilmer, the novel’s protagonist, is distraught and insists on going back to his fiancee’s parents’ house, where he and Jen have just spent four days, on the chance that she somehow got out of his car and was able to make her way back there.

But when the police take him there the house looks slightly different, older and less well-kept, than the house Richard and Jen left only an hour earlier.  And the woman who answers the door says that she’s never seen Richard before and that her husband has been dead for many years.  When Richard asks about her daughter, she slaps him across the face and slams the door.

Richard returns to his apartment in New York City, still reeling from the accident.  He talks to his two closest friends with whom he and Jen spent several evenings, but they say they never met her.  He goes to the art gallery she and a friend owned, and there’s a different business in that location.  What is going on?

Richard is a free-lance investigative journalist, so he decides to make his next story the search for Jen. After the story appears, he’s contacted by hundreds of cranks–some say they know where Jen is, some claim to be Jen, and some tell him they could get in touch with Jen on the “other side.”

But one night Richard gets a call that is very believable. A woman phones to say she thinks she knows who Jen is and can prove it.  She sends a photo to Richard on his computer, and when he opens his e-mail he’s looking at a photo of his fiancee.

The woman who called Richard, Allison Tynes, claims that her identical twin sister has been missing for several months.  Allie flies to New York from Wisconsin, and when Richard meets her she is, in fact, the double of his missing fiancee.  Together they decide to find out if Julie Tynes and Jennifer Ryan are, or were, one and the same person.

The chapters narrated by Richard  are interspersed with chapters narrated by someone called The Stone.  He is the mastermind of the plot involving Richard, Jen, and a mysterious drug that will make him billions.  But who is he, and why is he having Richard followed and his apartment bugged?

David Rosenfelt has written a real page-turner, a mystery with a touch of medical science fiction built in.  I don’t know how much of what turns out to be the core of the plot is “science” or “fiction,” but it certainly makes for a thrilling ride.

You can read more about David Rosenfelt at his web site.