Storm Warning by Dinah McCall
(Mira, $6.50, PG-13) ISBN: 1-55166-808-4
****
Let me admit that I had a bit of trouble rating this book. I found the premise more than a bit improbable. But, on the other hand, it sure passed my pick up/put down test. The story grabbed me from the beginning and didnít let me go. So I have to conclude that Storm Warning worked very well as romantic suspense.

The beginning sets the stage and the tone. Six young women innocently answer a ringing phone and then inexplicably end up dead, one by jumping off a bridge, another by walking into traffic, a third by leaping off a building, a fourth by running her car into a train, a fifth by driving her car into a gasoline truck, the sixth by throwing herself into a raging stream. But before the last victim died, she had figured out that the previous five deaths were related. All had been students at a school in New York twenty years earlier; all had been part of a mysterious special program.

Before she too became a victim, Sister Mary Teresa had sent a warning to the last remaining survivor, Virginia Shapiro, a reporter on a St. Louis paper. She had also contacted her childhood friend, FBI agent Sullivan Dean, providing the evidence that sent him rushing to her rescue. He had been too late to save Sister Mary Teresa. He is determined to save Ginny Shapiro.

Ginny has taken her old friendís warning very seriously, especially after she does the research that showed her that the deaths of her old schoolmates were connected. She tells her boss the truth and then sets off to hide from the unseen and unknown menace that has already destroyed six lives. Sully sets off after her. He knows that she will be safer with him, especially now that the law enforcement authorities know that something very evil is at work.

Sully catches up with Ginny at a small fishing camp in Mississippi. There is an immediate connection between the two, the result of the perilous circumstances. But before Sully can take Ginny into protective custody, they fall afoul of a particularly nasty local low life. After a brutal near rape, Ginny ends up hospitalized. Sully rescues her in time, but the trauma takes its toll on both of them. For Ginny, the FBI agent comes to be the sole source of hope and caring in her desperate situation. That the two fall in love is no surprise.

McCall does a very good job with gradually uncovering the reasons for and the method of the murders, while at the same time leaving the reader wondering who is really responsible. I did figure out who the murderer was, but the manner by which the motive and method came to light created still more suspense. The denouement is absolutely eerie.

McCall also creates an attractive heroine and hero. I so enjoy heroines who are strong and proactive rather than reactive. Ginny is such a heroine. She faces the truth and acts. Her behavior, while having an element of understandable panic, makes sense. When she is offered help, she wisely accepts it. When she herself can do something to unravel the mystery, she does it despite the danger. I liked her a lot.

Sully is a fairly traditional hero - the strong upholder of the law, the protector, the loner who finally finds the right woman and then has to save her from danger. Still, he is well drawn and well developed.

I donít know enough about the workings of the human mind to determine whether the scenario of Storm Warning lies within the realm of possibility. I do know that this book kept me turning the pages and kept me on the edge of my seat. Readers canít ask much more from a romantic suspense novel.

--Jean Mason


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