The Black Knave

Broken Honor

Dancing With a Rogue

The Diamond King

Home For Christmas

The Perfect Family

Starfinder

Star Keeper

Twisted Shadows

 
Cold Target by Patricia Potter
(Berkley, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-425-19386-1
***
Cold Target is a romantic suspense novel that focuses on the suspense to the detriment of the anemic romance. It features two heroines, two heroes, two parallel stories with a lot of alternating back and forth and abrupt transitions. In spite of its ample length of over 425 pages, it tries to cram too much between the covers.

Amateur artist and mother Holly Matthew Ames kills an intruder in self-defense. She finds her home security code in his possession. She realizes that her husband, a Louisiana state senator who intends to run for Congress, has sent someone to murder her. She and her young son flee, leaving a false trail and finally relocating in Bisbee, Arizona. There she changes her name and the name of her son and tries to remain anonymous, but she soon makes friends and attracts the attention of someone she wants most to avoid – the local sheriff.

New Orleans lawyer Meredith Rawson is overwhelmed with responsibilities. Her mother is dying. Her emotionally distant father, also a lawyer, rarely visits the hospital room. Meredith’s parents had an unloving relationship, and she grew up with little affection from either parent. Meredith’s family law practice has a client in crisis – a young wife and mother is seeking a protection order against her abusive husband, a police officer.

Gage Gaynor, a New Orleans police detective recently reassigned to homicide, is given some cold cases to work on. One involves a victim who spent his last evening with Meredith’s father. Since previous investigation to solve the murder was unproductive, Gage decides to pursue the Rawson lead.

In a final moment of lucidity, Marguerite Rawson tells her daughter that she has an older half-sister. When only seventeen, she had a daughter she was forced to give up for adoption. Marguerite implores Meredith to find her sister; a trust fund should be split between the two.

Meredith asks her father about her half-sister. He has obviously known about the birth and adoption, but he insists that Meredith not pursue the matter. Soon afterwards Meredith seems to become a target of violence and attempted murder. Gage is drawn into protecting her. As Meredith’s search into her mother’s past proceeds, still other people are suddenly being murdered. .

What is the secret surrounding Meredith’s half-sister that someone is willing to kill to protect?

Much of the book suffers from poor pacing as the first half painstakingly lays down a lot of background then the story line begins to speed up dramatically as the body count rises culminating in a bloodbath at the end. Because there are several important characters, this requires a lot of background material – much of it involving loveless childhoods.

By the time the story picks up, it’s too late to save it. It’s obvious from the beginning of the story that Holly must be Meredith’s half-sister so there’s no suspense involved there. Meredith’s repeated miraculous escapes become tedious, and the reason behind the web of deceit seems insubstantial for so many deaths.

The romance between Meredith and Gage is more convenient than convincing. We’re told that they always felt an attraction, but each privately vowed to do nothing about it. Suddenly, they’re together most of the time and not fighting the attraction very hard. Holly is a more sympathetic character, and her romance with the sheriff has more romantic overtones. The subplot involving Meredith and Gage, however, is the more dominant one.

Readers who enjoy romantic suspense and don’t mind a longish book with awkward pacing, may find Cold Target of interest. Readers who prefer snappy pacing and tight plotting may want to look elsewhere.

--Lesley Dunlap


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