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Guardian in Disguise
by Rachel Lee
(HRS #1701, $5.25, PG) ISBN 978- 0-373-27771-1
Rachel Lee is back in Conard County, Wyoming for "The Next Generation." This generationís stories have been characterized by less complex plots, and more character angst. Guardian in Disguise opens at a faculty tea in a junior college in Conard County. In one of her best novel openings, the author, speaking through the voice of the main character Liza Ender, contrasts this tea held in a college cafeteria with a Victorian tea within paneled walls and heavy curtains.

While at the tea she spots someone who looks out of place to her, and she thinks that behind this character is an interesting back story. Meeting and talking with Max McKenny, she is now certain he is deflecting her questions, and convinced that he has something to hide. The news terrier in her won't let it drop as she continues her cross examination. Despite the fact that she lost one of her more serious boyfriends by her insatiable curiosity and unrelenting digging for additional facts, she continues agonizing over whether or not she should let it go or keep foraging as days pass. This is her state of mind and angst for more than one third of the book.

Max has a lot to hide since he is there, rather than in witness protection, pending a trial where he was the undercover ATF agent who secured the downfall and the arrests of a terrorist organization operating within the United States. Lisa just will not quit and her investigation stirs up interest in Florida, which Max's handler picks up on quickly. Since six terrorists, part of the gang not in custody, are searching for him to kill him, it is feared this interest will lead to their locating Max.

Now of course Lisa has not only put Max at risk but herself as well, a fact which the handler all too quickly recognizes. Gage Dalton, now police chief in Conard County, has always known Max's identity, and when they become aware that Max's location has been identified, he enlists the aid of Micah Parish and Nate Tate to help him protect Max and Lisa.

The story evolves predictably, both with the budding romance between Lisa and Max, and the actions of the six terrorists. Long time Rachel Lee readers may prefer the books of the earlier generation of Conard County residents.

--Thea Davis

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