Cover image for Love her madly
Love her madly
Smith, Mary-Ann Tirone, 1944-
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Henry Holt and Co., 2002.
Physical Description:
507 pages ; 25 cm
Format :


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A tense, death-row drama--meet brash FBI investigator Poppy Rice in the first of a winning new series

Poppy Rice is home in her D.C. apartment with very little furniture and lots of boxes she still hasn't unpacked after five years. It's three a.m. and she's suffering from her usual insomnia. While polishing her nails, she watches a tape of the CBS Evening News- Dan Rather is interviewing convicted ax-murderer Rona Leigh Glueck. In ten days, Rona Leigh will be the first woman executed in Texas since the Civil War. Poppy pauses the tape on a close-up of Rona Leigh's small, delicate hands. Okay, she thinks, so maybe it was a lightweight ax.

Poppy digs out Rona Leigh's case file to find-along with the grisly crime-scene photos-a physician's testimony that glee, not muscle, gave her the strength to commit the crime. When her public defender asked the crime lab for help determining whether such a small woman could physically commit these murders, he was turned away for not filing the correct paperwork.

With the reluctant support of her colleague and sometime lover, Joe Barnow, the relentless Poppy reopens the investigation to find out if Rona Leigh deserves to receive a certificate that will read: Death by Legal Homicide as Ordered by the State of Texas.

Funny and fearless, Poppy Rice is just about unstoppable. In fact, she's already on to her next case-Smith is currently at work on the second novel in this smart new series.

Author Notes

Mary-Ann Tirone Smith is the author of 5 previous novels including most recently An American Killing, which was chosen as a New York Times Notable Book. She lives in Connecticut.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Penelope "Poppy' Rice first appeared as an FBI crime lab director in Smith's well-received thriller, An American Killing (1998). She's back to launch a series of her own, now that she's done all she can to revamp the crime lab and has returned to investigative work. Watching a televised interview with convicted axe murderess and born-again Christian Rona Leigh Glueck, whose Texas execution date is fast approaching, Poppy is skeptical that such a serene woman with such tiny hands could have committed the crimes. She pulls the case file out of curiosity, and what follows is a mad rush to determine whether Rona Leigh received a fair trial and to delay the execution. Smith delivers a smart, irreverent heroine; pitch-perfect Texan dialogue; gasp-worthy plot twists; and quite a bit of substance along with the action. Poppy has some serious and scathing things to say about the death penalty, religion, and Texas politics. Readers may not agree with her, but they'll find a lot to think about here. --Carrie Bissey

Publisher's Weekly Review

In the first installment in a slick new series, the versatile Smith (author of four literary novels and the quality suspense tale An American Killing) introduces Poppy Rice, FBI agent and brassy gal all around, who blusters her way into a capital punishment case obviously inspired by that of real-life convicted killer Karla Faye Tucker, executed a few years ago. Rona Leigh Glueck awaits the execution chamber, "about to be the first woman put to death by the people of Texas since the Civil War," but Poppy deduces that Ms. Glueck's wrists were too dainty to have wielded a heavy ax in a double homicide. In a book long on hokey Texas dialogue (" `You learn anything a-tall in FBI school, ma'am?' ") but short on descriptive narrative, the reader misses a sense of place, but the plot drives along nicely, which is the novel's saving grace. Having turned to Jesus in prison, Rona Leigh seems to await chemical death with equanimity. For reasons that are unclear, a Catholic cardinal offers to be her death row spiritual counselor. While Rona Leigh may have been a loose woman and a liar, many now see her as an angel. Poppy believes that Rona Leigh didn't receive a fair trial, but the obstacles to reopening the case are daunting. The governor has promised himself, and his public, that this woman will die. The action builds to a surprising if implausible climax in the death house that should please most readers. Smith may be no Patricia Cornwell when it comes to detailing investigative work, but she knows how to tell a suspenseful story in an easy, colloquial voice women readers especially will appreciate. Author tour. (Jan. 11) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Move over V.I. and Kinsey-here comes Penelope (Poppy) Rice, FBI agent extraordinaire, as scrappy and effective as the best of the female operatives. Classed as a police procedural, this tale takes place mainly in Texas, where Rona Leigh Glueck, in jail for 17 years, is about to be executed for a gory double axe murder. Poppy takes a second look at the evidence and the trial transcripts and decides that Rona Leigh deserves, at the very least, a new trial. The cast of characters includes the low-life widower of one of the victims; Poppy's sometime lover Joe, from the department of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; and the last remaining Shaker elder. Some totally unexpected twists keep the listener delightedly off-balance. The grim descriptions of the procedure of death by lethal injection are disturbing and unsettling, as is the result, in more ways than one. The program is read marvelously by Susan Ericksen, whose Southern voices are right-on. The review copy, unfortunately, was of poor sound quality, with one side nearly inaudible and voices murmuring in the background on several others; this might just have been a lemon. Check for quality, but purchase this item; it will be a winner.-Harriet Edwards, East Meadow P.L., NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.