In the Game by Nikki Baker

Publisher/Date:  Naiad Press, Sept. 1991
Genre:  Mystery
Pages:  224

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

When your best friend’s lover turns up dead, do you:

a. accuse your friend of murder
b. hire her a top-notch attorney who begins stalking you after your affair goes sour
c. begin your own investigation that almost gets you killed
d. all of the above

If you picked D, you’re one step ahead in Nikki Baker’s debut, IN THE GAME, a mystery starring Virginia “Ginny’ Kelly as an amateur detective trying to piece together a crime of passion.

What begins as a romance through the personals for Ginny’s best friend, Bev, ends as a homicide. Bev meets Kelsey through the newspaper, and they do the whole U-Haul thing after only a month of dating. Ginny is skeptical of the whole arrangement, always having a soft spot for Bev and detesting the way Kelsey took advantage of her. The last straw is when Ginny discovers Kelsey is being unfaithful to Bev, and she has to find a way to tell her friend that her lover is no good.

But she never gets a chance to – Kelsey winds up dead shortly thereafter. Despite their differences, however, Ginny never wanted Kelsey to be killed.

On top of all this, Ginny has her own fish to fry with Em, her white lover of three years. They’ve reached a plateau in their relationship where it’s neither good nor bad, but just is; the lesbian bed death has hit their household and Ginny can’t find a cure — until she meets Susan, the attorney enlisted to help Bev in her sticky situation.

Aside from these issues, Ginny doesn’t want to see her friend framed for this heinous crime. The two have remained tight since their days at a lily-white business school, depending on each other in a world that caters to the white majority. They need each other for strength and that familiar, unspoken comfort that comes being sistahs. It’s only right that when Kelsey is murdered that Ginny try to track down her killer. What Ginny uncovers, though, is way more than she bargained for, cause Kelsey has way more skeletons in her closet than is allowed.

Baker manages to engage with In the Game, providing an interesting picture of an upper-scale, professional black lesbian. Ginny knows the game well enough to play it with finesse, and has a great sense of whom she is. The story was a little predictable in parts, but I will be glad to read more in this mystery series featuring a great sleuthing sistah.

Reviewed March 2008

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