REVIEW by Dorothy Sinclair

"Dead File" by Kelly Lange. Mysterious Press. 311 pp. $24.95

Battling bouts of insomnia after co-anchoring the 6 and 11 o'clock news for KNBC, Kelly Lange found the pleasantest way of unwinding was by reading a murder-mystery. One night she had an epiphany: "I can do this!" Thus began her career as a writer of glitzy novels. Now, with four books under her belt, Lange has hit her stride. "Dead File" is the second in what is certain to become a hit series. The thriller, "Reporter," introduced us to Maxi Poole, sexy blonde newscaster and investigative reporter working out of a TV station in Burbank. She's so obviously an incarnation of the author - so savvy and likable - that readers won't mind a bit.

When last seen Maxi's meddling put her through some rigorous paces, nearly costing her life. Now barely mended, she's back with her malamute Yukon, still aching a bit, but eager to plunge back into the fray. This time Maxi is on the trail of the killer of Gillian Rose, super attractive, super successful businesswoman, head of a go-go manufacturing company of diet pills and vitamin supplements. News of Gillian's death inside her private office catches the TV anchorwoman by surprise. Before you can say, "Grab your camera," she's off to the scene of the crime. Never one to shy away from capitalizing on a perk, Maxi remembers the secret combination which Gillian once shared with her to a private elevator and barges in where other media members dare not tread. She and her cameraman are privy to a quick look at the body and are able to shoot a brief bit of tape before being chased away from the crime scene.

That tape is rendered unusable on-air and is thus relegated to what is known as the "Dead File." But it is this picture of the deceased Gillian that sticks in Maxi's mind and that ultimately leads her to the murderer. The list of suspects is the sleazy yet upscale and glamorous assortment that has become a Lange trademark. For starters, there's Gillian's attractive, philandering partner/husband and his barracuda of a secretary/mistress. Add a strange billionaire industrialist from the East Coast who has an ulterior motive for wanting to acquire Rose Enterprises for his very own. Would he stop at nothing? Even murder? Dare we count out Gillian's appealing young personal secretary, who herself soon takes a bullet to the head? And how about her personable though wheelchair-bound father, owner of a successful Westwood Pharmacy? Even more interesting than the suspects, however, are Maxi's pals down at Channel 6. They are a colorful compilation of Kelly Lange's old cohorts from NBC - some fictitious, some real people complete with actual names. The author succeeds in melding them together with a technique that renders them lively and believable.

Lange has carefully worked out the solution to the murder with her usual painstaking precision, tossing the reader more than a fair share of red herrings. But above all, it is the locale that stars in this show. Maxi accomplishes more in her frenetic break between the 6 and 11 o'clock newscasts than most of us do in a week! Angelinos, accustomed to battling the LA freeways in rush hour will do well to study Maxi's intricate choices and alternate routes. Here is a gal who has no need of Map Quest - she seems to have committed her Thomas Guide to memory. She can choose the quickest way from Pasadena to the Palisades, with time for a quick stop at LAX. But that's not all. Maxi has the formula down pat for getting an immediate table at Southern California's trendiest eateries. She can also point the way to a great martini as well as an awesome margarita. Who's to argue?