Bridger's Last Stand
by Linda Winstead Jones
(Silh. Int. Mom.924, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-07924-9
***
Early one morning, Detective Malcom Bridger kills the perpetrator during a robbery in progress. That same day Frannie Vaughn is fired by her ex-fiancÚ in order to make room for his new love. That evening, the two drift together at a bar for a harmless evening of talk, drink and dancing trying to erase their bad days. Somehow, they end up overcome with lust at the Riverwatch Hotel.

The next morning, an embarrassed Frannie slips out early and meets one other early riser on the way down the stairs. Later, Mal's partner, Harry, awakens him and informs him that a homicide has occurred at the hotel, and the victim has been found murdered in the stairway.

Realizing that Frannie might have seen the victim, they pay her a visit. Their investigation apparently alerts the murderer and Frannie becomes a target. Mal has a theory that the victim passed something to Frannie as they passed in the stairway, and that the killer is now trying to retrieve it. A personal visit from the killer late at night sets up the familiar plot line in which the detective must move in to protect the at-risk witness, and a romance flourishes.

Mal's one near marriage never materialized because his girlfriend couldn't stand his job and guns. Naturally, he assumes every woman will feel this way. Other than that, he is a likeable guy and has great chemistry with Frannie as one disaster after another befalls her.

Jones keeps the sexual conflict and suspense proceeding at an even pace, never seeming to neglect one for the other as she evenly varies the dynamics of each scene. Her characters have depth, and the dialogue is snappy and appropriate to the circumstances. The story evolves in a natural way without leaving you with the feeling that everything is resolved in the last paragraph. This book accurately reflects the efforts of a technically good writer with empathy for people.

Bridger's Last Stand is historical romance writer Jones' first entry into the category field. If the plot line were just slightly more original it would move into four heart territory. However, historical readers following a favorite author into new territory will probably be well entertained.

--Thea Davis


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