@@@@ (4 out of 5)
A young man named Ted Macauley is stalking two undergraduate women at UC Berkeley. Someone, presumably the same man, has been calling the Elmwood District house they share with several other students and hanging up without speaking. And now the residents have returned to find all the flowers in the front yard of the house trashed and their lemon tree decapitated. One of the two women, Vicki Vernon, calls in Jeri Howard to look into the matter. Jeri is an Oakland private investigator who had been married to her father, an Oakland cop. Vicki has carefully avoided calling her dad, knowing he would go on a rampage against her stalker. Thus begins Janet Dawson’s A Credible Threat, the sixth novel in her Jeri Howard series.
Shortly after Jeri meets the residents of the house, the threat escalates. Stalking eventually turns to murder, involving both Jeri and her ex-husband in a dangerous investigation that harkens back to a murder case early in Jeri’s career as a P.I. The inquiry requires her to take several quick trips from Berkeley to Boulder and to Mendocino, as the case broadens.
A Credible Threat was published in 1996 and reflects the passage of the nation’s first anti-stalking law in California in 1990. The title refers to the central definition in that law: “a credible threat to place [a person] in reasonable fear for his or her safety, or the safety of his or her immediate family . . .”
Dawson writes serviceable prose and has mastered the art of plotting that brings suspense into the open. My only complaint is that she digresses into over-lengthy descriptions of the scenery on Jeri’s trips away from Berkeley.
About the author
Janet Dawson has written 12 novels in the Jeri Howard series and two in a newer one, an historical mystery series with a woman protagonist, as well as a standalone suspense novel. She was a U.S. Navy officer, a journalist, and an employee in legal affairs at UC Berkeley.