Born in Columbia, SC; children: Andrea, James. Education: University of South Florida, B.A.; University of Miami, J.D.; Florida International University, M.F.A., 1993.
Home—Lauderdale by the Sea, FL. E-mail—[email protected]
Attorney and author. Dade County State Attorney's Office, Miami, FL, prosecuter, beginning 1977; established private law practice.
Edgar Award finalist for best first mystery novel, Mystery Writers of America, 1995, for Suspicion of Innocence.
Suspicion of Innocence, Dutton (New York, NY), 1994.
Suspicion of Guilt, Dutton (New York, NY), 1995.
Suspicion of Deceit, Dutton (New York, NY), 1998.
Suspicion of Betrayal, Dutton (New York, NY), 1999.
Suspicion of Malice, Dutton (New York, NY), 2000.
Suspicion of Vengeance, Dutton (New York, NY), 2001.
Suspicion of Madness, Dutton (New York, NY), 2003.
Suspicion of Rage, Dutton (New York, NY), 2005.
Blood Relations, Dutton (New York, NY), 1996.
Criminal Justice, Dutton (New York, NY), 1997.
The Perfect Fake, Dutton (New York, NY), 2007.
Several of Parker's novels have been adapted as audio books.
Barbara Parker is a former prosecuting attorney who has written several mystery novels, including the works in her popular "Suspicion" series. Parker made her literary debut in 1994 with Suspicion of Innocence, the story of a resourceful attorney who must solve the mystery of her sister's death, which had initially been deemed a suicide. The heroine, Gail Connor, is a successful partner at a prominent Miami law firm, but after her sister is found dead, she becomes a murder suspect. Connor endeavors to uncover the truth of her sister's demise even as her own family life degenerates: her husband leaves her and their child, and her immediate relatives seem to be behaving rather suspiciously. As Connor's investigation into her sister's death takes her into Miami's Cuban community, she uncovers evidence of disturbing actions within her own family, she finds solace in a romance with dashing Cuban attorney Anthony Quintana. However, she also finds herself drawn to his equally handsome—but ultimately less endearing—cousin, a real-estate developer. Marvin Lachman, a reviewer for Armchair Detective, felt that Parker's "pace seems slow, almost as a function of the warm climate." Mary Carroll, a reviewer in Booklist, praised the book's "appealing characters and … involving plot."
Gail Connor is also the heroine of Parker's second novel, Suspicion of Guilt. In this story, eccentric philanthropist Althea Tillett dies and Connor's former law classmate Patrick Norris, the philanthropist's only living relative, stands to inherit millions. Tillett has already willed her considerable estate to a variety of Miami charities, however. Norris disputes the will's validity and engages Connor to represent his legal interests, but when police reveal that Tillett's death was murder, Connor's client is considered the most likely culprit. Connor determines to uncover the killer's identity even as she copes with demanding personal responsibilities, including raising her ten-year-old daughter and maintaining her relationship with Anthony Quintana, her love interest from Suspicion of Innocence. Christine E. Thompson, in a review for Armchair Detective, called the book "an excellent tale that will keep you suspicious of everyone … until the heart-throbbing end." A Publishers Weekly reviewer felt that the characters were somewhat clichèd, but added that "it all fits the steamy Miami setting … a breathlessly paced legal thriller with a powerful punch." As Booklist reviewer Mary Carroll wrote, "the author deftly shifts puzzle pieces to explore Gail's complex relationships."
In Suspicion of Deceit Parker once again features her popular characters Gail Connor and Anthony Quintana. This novel mines the tensions between Yankee and Cuban culture through a high-culture vein: opera. Gail, who has started her own firm, is happy to take on the Miami Opera Company; she does not realize that Thomas Nolan, its rising young star, has ties to Castro's Cuba that will jeopardize his popularity, and even his safety, in Miami. Anthony Quintana, who is now engaged to Gail, becomes Nolan's escort, but the opera board fears that Nolan's ties to Castro will be revealed to Quintana's brother-in-law, "rabble-rousing anti-Castro talk-show host Octavio Reyes," according to a Kirkus Reviews writer. Gail becomes aware that Quintana has past connections with the opera board, and to Marxism, having led a number of its members on a trip to Nicaragua to support the Sandanistas twenty years before. It was on this trip that a member of the government forces murdered Quintana's former American girlfriend. Because suspicions remain that Quintana may have had some responsibility for her killing, members of the board are now being murdered.
Reviews of Suspicion of Deceit were mixed. A Kirkus Reviews writer deemed the novel's climax "too silly for words," and wrote that "even Parker's fans might put this one down." Elsa Pendleton wrote in Library Journal that "the story … hovers uneasily between episodes of Gail and Tony's lovemaking and Gail's getting herself into cliched predicaments." Pendleton went on to criticize the "Suspicion" series, contending that it degrades female attorneys and Hispanics living in Florida. Mary Carroll, reviewing Suspicion of Deceit in Booklist, called it a "complex, involving tale," and "a satisfying read."
Parker's Suspicion of Betrayal finds Gail secure in her career and her love life: she has established her practice and purchased a beautiful home with husband-to-be Anthony Quintana. Everything seems to be falling into place for Gail until her eleven-year-old daughter, Karen, begins to receive disturbing phone messages from a voice who identifies himself as "Death," as well as letters enclosing scarily altered photos of Gail and Karen. When Karen's kitten is decapitated, Gail puts aside her suspicion of a neighborhood schoolboy and begins to consider other possibilities, including a client's wealthy husband who wants to give nothing to his wife in their divorce, and her own ex-husband, Dave Metzger, who is suing her for custody of Karen. Even Anthony begins to look suspicious. As Dave and Anthony do battle over how to best protect Karen, the girl is abducted, and Gail's world comes crashing down. Mary Frances Wilkens remarked in Booklist that, "although Parker is a little too deliberate in setting up her suspects, the climax and denouement are surprisingly satisfying," and Stacey Reasor wrote in Library Journal that Baker "has written another suspenseful story that keeps the reader guessing until the very end."
In Suspicion of Malice the relationship between Gail Connor and Anthony Quintana has dissolved. The murder of Roger Creswell, wealthy heir of a yacht-building family, throws them together again as each investigates the case. Gail is brought into the case at the request of Angela Quintana, Anthony's teenage daughter, whose boyfriend, Miami Ballet Company dancer Bobby Gonzalez, is the prime suspect. Angela wants Bobby cleared, but she does not want her father to know about her involvement with him. Bobby has an alibi: he was smoking marijuana with an esteemed Miami judge at the time of the murder. The judge, a friend of the Quintana family, calls in Anthony to represent him in the case. Reviewers praised Suspicion of Malice, a contributor in Publishers Weekly calling it an "inspired mix of sexy love story, sulky teenagers, family feuds and secrets, … and sharp outbreaks of murder and mayhem." Library Journal contributor Stacey Reasor noted one of the hallmarks of good suspense fiction: "Parker keeps you turning the pages."
In 2001 Parker's Suspicion of Vengeance appeared. This recent installment finds Connor and Quintana working on an appeal to free a convicted killer. The case meets strong public resistance as members of the wealthy community where the murder happened protest the appeal. As Connor and Quintana investigate further, they become convinced that their client is the innocent victim of a conspiracy designed to hide the secrets and political motives of prominent citizens in the community.
Connor and Quintana defend a young man accused of murder in Suspicion of Madness, a mystery set in the Florida Keys. Though the lawyers are convinced that Billy Fadden is innocent, their task grows more complicated when they learn that their client, following a suicide attempt, has admitted to the killing. They begin investigating a host of unsavory characters, including an aging starlet and an attorney who was having an affair with the victim. According to Booklist contributor Mary Frances Wilkens, "the mystery is quirky and unusual," and a Publishers Weekly critic stated that the author "paces her story well and neatly ties ‘up’ loose ends."
In Suspicion of Rage, Connor and Quintana plan to celebrate their whirlwind marriage with a trip to Cuba, where Quintana hopes to reunite with members of his family. Members of the Central Intelligence Agency, however, want Quintana to convince his brother-in-law, General Ramiro Vega, to defect to America, and they warn Quintana that Vega has been targeted for assassination. "Cuba past and present comes to life through the eyes of the disparate characters," wrote Library Journal critic Jane Jorgenson.
In addition to her works in the "Suspicion" series, Parker has published a number of stand-alone mysteries. Blood Relations introduces prosecuting attorney Sam Hagan, who is charged with investigating teen model Ali Duncan's allegations that she was gang-raped by prominent Miami authorities and celebrities. Hagan accepts Duncan's accusations as truthful, but his position is complicated when several suspects are found dead. His circumstances are exacerbated still further by his troubled personal life: his marriage seems particularly vulnerable in the wake of his grown son's recent death. And as he works to corroborate Duncan's contentions and stabilize his private life, he uncovers increasing evidence of corruption among Miami's wealthy elite. Reviewing Blood Relations for Chicago's Tribune Books, Chris Petrakos wrote, "There aren't many writers who can spin a colorful suspense story while mapping out the near-destruction of a family, but Parker pulls it off in style." "Some of the coincidences and liaisons reach soap-opera proportions, but the pace never flags," wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Emily Melton responded to the book similarly in a review for Booklist, writing that "the fast paced action should heat up even the coldest mystery buff."
Parker is also the author of Criminal Justice, which finds attorney Dan Galindo in dire straits after he has refused to admit a lying witness in a recent trial. Galindo's professional life has since faltered. He has lost his position as a federal prosecutor and alienated an influential federal agent. In addition, his marriage has ended. Galindo seems to find new clients only through the assistance of his former brother-in-law, music producer Rick Robbins. When Galindo's new girlfriend, musician Kelly Dorf, is arrested for striking a police officer, Galindo investigates and discovers ties between Kelly's band mate Martha and former brother-in-law Robbins's covert business partner, suspicious South American Miguel Salazar. Matters are further complicated when Galindo learns that Kelly is helping federal authorities by serving as an informant providing information about Salazar's questionable business practices. After Galindo and Kelly dissolve their romance, she meets with federal authorities and scornfully implicates Galindo in Salazar's operations. In praise of the novel, a Publishers Weekly reviewer said that Parker "throws the steak of real experience on the fire of Miami and lets it sizzle."
The Perfect Fake centers on ex-convict Tom Fairchild, a graphic artist working at his sister's antique map store. Fairchild's designs catch the eye of wealthy real-estate mogul Stuart Barlowe, who asks him to copy a rare Renaissance-period map that was damaged during a fatal shooting. Despite his misgivings, Fairchild agrees to the task and learns he will be supervised by his former girlfriend, Allison Barlowe, his employer's daughter. As the pair journey to England and Italy to research the map, neither realizes their life is in danger. "In addition to crafting an interesting, quick-moving story, Parker provides wonderful locales," noted Library Journal contributor Nicole A. Cook, and Sue O'Brien, writing in Booklist, stated that Fairchild and Barlowe "make a sympathetic couple on the run, and the cartography frame story is fresh and compelling."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Armchair Detective, summer, 1994, Marvin Lachman, review of Suspicion of Innocence, pp. 305-307; fall, 1995, Christine E. Thompson, review of Suspicion of Guilt, p. 467.
Booklist, January 1, 1994, Mary Carroll, review of Suspicion of Innocence, p. 807; February 1, 1995, Mary Carroll, review of Suspicion of Guilt, p. 993; February 15, 1996, Emily Melton, review of Blood Relations, p. 995; January 1, 1998, Mary Carroll, review of Suspicion of Deceit, p. 784; February 1, 1999, Mary Frances Wilkens, review of Suspicion of Betrayal, p. 94; December 15, 2002, Mary Frances Wilkens, review of Suspicion of Madness, p. 737; May 1, 2004, Ted Hipple, review of Suspicion of Madness, p. 1491; February 15, 2005, David Pitt, review of Suspicion of Rage, p. 1066; October 15, 2006, Sue O'Brien, review of The Perfect Fake, p. 33.
Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 1993, review of Suspicion of Innocence, p. 1350; January 1, 1995, review of Suspicion of Guilt, p. 18; December 1, 1995, review of Blood Relations, p. 1661; November 15, 1996, review of Criminal Justice, p. 1627; December 1, 1997, review of Suspicion of Deceit; November 1, 2002, review of Suspicion of Madness, p. 1560; January 1, 2005, review of Suspicion of Rage, p. 15; September 1, 2006, review of The Perfect Fake, p. 869
Kliatt, May 1, 2004, Nola Theiss, review of Suspicion of Madness, p. 55.
Library Journal, January, 1998, Elsa Pendleton, review of Suspicion of Deceit, p. 143; June 1, 1999, Stacey Reasor, review of Suspicion of Betrayal, p. 178; April 15, 2000, Stacey Reasor, review of Suspicion of Malice, p. 124; December 1, 2002, Nancy McNicol, review of Suspicion of Madness, p. 180; September 1, 2004, Sandy Glover, review of Suspicion of Madness, p. 202; February 15, 2005, Jane Jorgenson, review of Suspicion of Rage, p. 120; November 1, 2006, Nicole A. Cooke, review of The Perfect Fake, p. 70.
MBR Bookwatch, February 1, 2005, Harriet Klausner, review of Suspicion of Rage.
Publishers Weekly, January 9, 1995, review of Suspicion of Guilt, p. 58; January 1, 1996, review of Blood Relations, p. 58; January 6, 1997, review of Criminal Justice, p. 66; April 24, 2000, review of Suspicion of Malice, p. 64; August 20, 2001, "Dutton's Other Parker," p. 17; December 9, 2002, review of Suspicion of Madness, p. 60; November 20, 2006, review of The Perfect Fake, p. 36.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), February 18, 1996, Chris Petrakos, review of Blood Relations, p. 6.
Writer, October 1, 2003, "Barbara Parker," p. 66.
Barbara Parker Home Page,http://www.barbaraparker.com (July 1, 2007).