Comfort of a Man

I Promise

Love's Deception

My Destiny

Say You Love Me

 
Deadly Double by Adrianne Byrd
(Harper Torch, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-06-056539-X
****
Dr. William Hayes hasn’t been working at the Keystone Mental Institution very long, but he knows one thing for sure – the patient everyone is calling “Michelle Andrews” isn’t Michelle Andrews. She’s the girl he loved and lost one summer while vacationing in Paris – Josephine Ferrell. It’s a mystery he can barely wrap his mind around, and “Michelle” is so doped up that she is unable to give him any answers. Worse still, “Michelle” is a long time patient of a doctor on staff, and that doctor assures Will he is mistaken.

Through a sense of loyalty, and the fact that he’s still in love with her, Will ends up putting his career on the line and kidnaps a patient.

“Michelle Andrews” is indeed Josephine Ferrell. A crazy woman is trying to steal her life, and has nearly succeeded. Josie’s pleas for help with hospital staff only lands her on the wrong side of a hypodermic needle. She is soon swimming in a sea of drugs, so William not only has to figure out what is going on, he also has to help Josie detox. With dead bodies piling up, time is running short. Will Josie and Will be able to clear her name before they end up in the morgue?

Author of several contemporary romances, this is only Byrd’s second foray into romantic suspense and it is quite accomplished. The author literally drops the reader right in the middle of the action and slowly unfolds the nuances of all her characters. While this technique can often prove confusing and frustrating, Byrd makes it work by setting a frantic and exciting pace that kicks off with Will spiriting Josie away from Keystone. The suspense is then revealed through real time and flashbacks.

Will and Josie share a poignant and heartbreaking past. When they met in Paris, Josie was an aspiring jazz musician and Will was a first year medical student. They fell in love, but Josie had made promises to another. They went their separate ways; both of them still half in love with each other. Josie’s current predicament throws them together, but they still have some leftover baggage from their affair 16 years earlier. Josie in particular has a haunting vulnerability about her, which makes it easy to understand how she fell prey to the villain.

Byrd keeps the action humming with several secondary characters – most notable being the female, Asian-American police detective assigned to the case. Her story is equally as compelling as Josie’s thanks to the inclusion of at-home moments between her and her husband. These added another dimension to her character, making Ming Delaney a full flesh and blood character as opposed to a mere bit player.

The conclusion of the story is particularly well done, as while Josie starts out vulnerable, she’s soon out for revenge. Will may be her knight in shining armor, the man who rescued her from Keystone, but Josie isn’t about to sit idly by while someone tries to steal her life. The minute she makes the decision to fight, even with the lingering effects of detox, she becomes a true heroine - a woman no longer willing to sit back and take it any longer.

The only missteps occur in the love scenes. Byrd can write credible sex, but has a tendency to use silly euphemisms. Otherwise sexy and romantic moments are ruined with the inclusion of phrases like “moist cave” and “vortex of euphoria.” These scenes stick out like a sore thumb in a novel that is otherwise finely written.

However overlooking the unfortunate tendency towards purple prose, Byrd has written an exciting story. I could very easily have finished it in one sitting had I not had to go to work. Readers who like women in peril stories where the woman fights back will find a lot to like here. Fans of tender reunion stories shouldn’t be disappointed either. Here’s hoping Byrd continues her foray into romantic suspense, this is certainly the most memorable one I’ve read in ages.

--Wendy Crutcher


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