The Alibi

Envy

Standoff

The Switch

Unspeakable

White Hot

 
Ricochet by Sandra Brown
(Simon & Schuster, $25.95, PG-13) ISBN 0-7432-8933-1
***
Thereís a new Sandra Brown romantic suspense book on store shelves Ė it must be summer.

Who are the characters?

1. Duncan Hatcher. A homicide detective with the Savannah (Georgia) - Chatham Metropolitan Police Department. His father is a minister, and heís close to his parents. Heís been raised in that rare environment in contemporary fiction these days Ė a loving, supportive, fully functional family. Heís a music savant and can play the complex pieces on the piano without being able to read music but has kept his talent secret from those outside his family. Heís obsessed with bringing drug kingpin Robert Savich to justice.

2. DeeDee Bowen. Duncanís partner who considers him her hero but isnít afraid to tell him some home truths. She repeatedly tells Duncan to go play the piano, and he replies he canít play the piano. She has the best line in the book.

3. Cato Laird. A superior court judge. He declared a mistrial in Savichís last trial which earned him Duncanís enmity. Heís well-respected and a member of Savannahís highest social class.

4. Elise Laird. Catoís beautiful young wife, and the woman Duncan falls in love with at first sight before he knows her name. Sheís got secrets. Big secrets. She was a cocktail waitress at the country club when Cato met and married her but had been a topless cocktail waitress in a previous job. Savannah society scorns her even though itís admitted her manners are faultless.

5. Robert Savich. Bad guy with no redeeming social qualities. He enjoys knowing that Duncan wants to bring him down so badly. So far heís been able to slip through the criminal justice system without a scratch.

Whatís the plot?

Duncan and Deedee are called to the Lairdsí house. Elise has shot and killed an intruder, she claims in self-defense. Duncan and DeeDee have questions about her story and begin investigating. Elise arranges a meeting alone with Duncan. She claims her husband is trying to kill her. When he asks why, she says she canít tell him because he wouldnít believe her.

The plot thickens when a local private investigator goes missing and the police learn that Cato had had the PI follow Elise because he believed she was having an affair.

Even though Duncan has reasons upon reasons to doubt Elise on every front, he cannot help being more and more deeply attracted to her.

Is it sexy?

Sandra Brown can write some of the best pillow talk in the genre, and Ricochet has its moments but theyíre more passionate than explicit. The sexual tension created by Duncanís fascination with Elise starts early and doesnít let up.

Why read it?

Because Sandra Brown can write a suspenseful tale even if some of it is contrived and implausible. Iíll confess I became so absorbed at one point that when a door slammed, I jumped.

And because Duncan Hatcher is one of the most appealing heroes of the year. He doesnít have umpteen hang-ups and psychoses. He loves his parents. He plays well with others and is probably kind to animals. His struggle to resist Elise and his eventual capitulation is the most moving part of the story. Itís reminiscent of the moral dilemma faced by Hammond Cross, the hero in Brownís The Alibi.

Why skip it?

Because Elise may be beautiful and sexy, but Savannah society has it right: sheís not in his class. When she repeatedly refuses to confide in him, when she does stupid Gothic Novel Heroine type things, and when she finally tells all, sheís just plain aggravating. Itís too bad Duncan doesnít shake her hand, say ďitís been real,Ē and walk away. Surely thereís at least one hot babe in Savannah with some moral fiber.

Obviously the author has to redeem Elise or else Duncanís going to be in a world of hurt over a piece of white trash, but itís too bad she didnít start out with a more deserving heroine. Maybe in a future book Elise will come to an untimely end, and Sandra Brown will give Duncan Hatcher a second chance.

Conclusion?

If you are looking for a potboiler plot with an appealing hero and are willing to overlook some big flaws, Richochet is worth tucking into your beach bag. If you want worthy characters and a credible plot, youíre likely to be disappointed.

Some good, some bad. Thatís a three-heart book.

--Lesley Dunlap


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