A Gentleman & a Soldier

Line of Fire

Her Secret Agent Man
by Cindy Dees
(Silh. Int. Mom. 1353, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-27423-8
Cindy Dees revisits her Charlie Squad series delving into the life of one of its members, Jim Dutch. Approximately a decade earlier, Julia Ferrare, daughter of the crime overlord Eduardo Ferrare, had lured Dutch and his squad into an ambush at Ferrare’s estate in a small South American country. Dutch lost his younger brother Simon in that ambush.

The story opens as Dutch is preparing to meet Julia, at her request, for the first time since the tragedy. The reader will immediately know this story will be a little different. Upon seeing Julia at the top of a ski slope, Dutch goes into a fugue state and comes to as he crashes into a fence halfway down an expert slope.

Julia is in need of Dutch’s help to keep her alive until she ransoms her sister back from their evil father. The reader must suspend disbelief to work with the premise that Eduardo will kill his younger daughter if sufficiently provoked. As the banker for the past ten years of her father's wide-ranging criminal empire, Julia transferred 30 million dollars of his assets to a hidden account. She plans to use these funds to affect her sister’s release.

The deal Julia offers Dutch is that she will testify against her father in exchange for being kept alive. Smart enough to realize that Dutch rightly blames her for his brother’s death, she hides the part that her sister’s ransom plays in her deal. Giving Dutch the opportunity to exchange one sibling’s death for another is something she knows she cannot risk.

Dutch is also smart enough to know she hasn’t revealed all, but is somewhat hampered by his recurring blackouts with Julia. These blackouts provide the forum for the author to retell the ambush story. Indeed Julia had set them up, but throughout the story one realizes that she was in the same predicament then as now.

The book is mostly comprised of chase scenes as not only Eduardo’s hired goons, but also the FBI are in hot pursuit of Julia. Dutch has also promised to kill her once she testifies and her father is convicted.

Not a likely scenario for a love story but Cindy Dees uses it, if not credibly, with deft poignancy, which is one of the most redeeming features of the book. Through the blackouts or fugue states, Dutch realizes that the reason she had been able to set them up years ago was because he had been in love with her. This little fact further complicates the burgeoning love story.

Dee again creates unbelievable scenarios but has enough imagination and creativity to work through to a somewhat plausible ending. The characters are extremely likeable and the pacing adds as much to the story as the strong sense of settings in the western states of Colorado, New Mexico and Montana.

The conflict between Dutch and Julia powers this plot and eventually this adversity forces both characters into the change that allows the love story resolution to be convincing.

Starting with extremely unrealistic premises, Cindy Dees nonetheless has fashioned an enjoyable read.

--Thea Davis

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