The Courtship

The Cove

The Deception

The Duke

The Edge

The Offer

Rosehaven

The Target

The Valentine Legacy

The Wild Baron

 
Riptide by Catherine Coulter
(Putnam, $23.95, PG-13) ISBN 0-399-14616-4
***
Three times . . . three times I closed Riptide, telling myself that I wasn't going to finish it. Each time something different irked me. Obviously my curiosity was stronger than my reluctance to read, because when I picked up Riptide for the fourth time, I kept reading.

Riptide is the next book in Coulter's law-enforcement series, with some old favorites making their standard reappearance. Becca Matlock is a senior speech writer for the governor of New York. Her life is turned on its axis when she begins receiving phone calls from a man intent on cat and mouse games. He always identifies himself as her boyfriend and begins to stalk her. Even after an innocent woman is murdered and the governor wounded, the police don't believe her. So she does the only thing she knows to do; she runs.

Riptide, Maine is Becca's destination. Tyler McBride, a college friend from Riptide, who still lives there, had described the place as his haven. With streets named Belladonna Drive, West Hemlock and Poison Oak Circle, it seemed closer to Stepford than to Beaver Cleaver's neighborhood. When Becca finds a skeleton of a young woman in the basement of her newly purchased home, I speculated how close Riptide was to Salem's Lot, Maine. Weird places up there.

As the plot unfolds, Becca is going to be in for heavy-duty shocks. Her father, whom she had thought was dead, is actually a biggie in the CIA who'd distanced himself from his family for their safety. With his connections, he sends Adam Carruthers to covertly protect Becca. In a scene that's highly entertaining, Becca confronts Adam, at first believing him to be the stalker. Kung fu hi-jinks follow, with Adam besting Becca, but just barely.

So, who's the bad guy? Is it a stalker who's picked Becca on a whim? A psycho who's mad at the governor? Is it her father's Cold War enemy? And who killed the young woman in Becca's basement?

The first fifty pages or so of Riptide were too staccato, jumping from the stalker, Becca's ill mother all the way to police who seemed to have an Attitude regarding her. The writing itself was staccato, occasionally so jarring that I stopped to see if I'd read something correctly. What probably bothered me most, though, through the whole story and what seemed to be the most fictitious was Becca's transformation from a seemingly smart woman to a person who wanted to be involved Up Close And Personal in the capture of the villain, a guy who murders with no compunction. When she becomes Adam's backup man, I felt sorry for Adam. Being proactive is fine, but not when it becomes foolish and imprudent.

My favorite parts of Riptide were those that included Savich and Sherlock, the leads from The Maze. They've been recurring secondary characters in each of Coulter's books since then. However, $23.95 is too high a price to pay just to get bits and pieces updates on these two. Becca and Adam were fun to read about, but they, too, were given less importance than all of the plot twists and turns.

Heavier on the suspense than on the romance, Riptide is plot-driven. Character motivations are secondary to the fast-paced but sometimes too-contrived actions. And when I, who lack the logical ability to piece clues together, know who bad guys A and B are, then something's just too simplistic. If Becca and Adam had been given more print space and if some of the questionable, unconvincing actions had made sense instead, then Riptide would have been a real page-turner.

Riptide is not a ripoff, but if Coulter continues to produce books in this vein, then I'm not so sure that ‘ripoff' won't apply.

--Linda Mowery


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