2000 Kisses

Christmas Knight

Code Name: Baby

Code Name: Bikini

Code Name: Nanny

Code Name: Princess

Going Overboard

My Spy

The Perfect Gift

 
To Catch a Thief
by Christina Skye
(HQN, $6.99, PG-13) 978-0-373-77307-7
**
Reading To Catch a Thief was like zapping to a popular soap opera on TV: you may enjoy some moments, but you don't get why it has such a popular following. Skye promises that her fans are going to love her attempt to bring together two of her successful series: Code Name and Draycott Abbey. But after a couple of chapters, all I could think was: is there something wrong with me, or is it really so difficult to make sense of the much-too-complicated plot, unlikely coincidences and over-the-top story-telling?

Nell MacInnes is not just the daughter of a famous art thief; she is also a prize-winning rock-climber and an art conservator with an international reputation. She is hoping to spend some time with her father now that he is finally out of prison. Little does she know that he is suspected of pulling one final heist: stealing a rare Leonardo da Vinci sketch on exhibition at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. When she runs into former navy SEAL Dakota Smith on a rescue operation in the rugged hills of Scotland, she has no idea he is monitoring her.

Dakota thinks the pretty rock climber is much too courageous, generous and thoughtful to be involved in any kind of criminal activity, even if her father is a notorious thief. Still, orders are orders, so he clamps down on his attraction and follows her to San Francisco. There, he saves her from a nasty run-in with thugs, pesky FBI agents and other unpalatable people. Despite this help, she wants nothing to do with him once she finds out who he really is.

By this point Nell has also learned that her father is being forced back into a life of crime and that he has every intention of doing the right thing. She contacts his good friend, Nicolas Draycott, who invites her to his ancestral home. There, they set on a plan to save her father, recover the missing sketch and prevent its sale to nasty terrorists.

Dakota is sent to join them. This time, Nell is all for his presence. She prepares him for a rock-climbing escapade and does not resist his advances.

Oh and there is a ghost at Draycott Abbey. Call me clueless or insensitive or cynical, but I really don't understand what his role is and why he makes an appearance. Any Dracott Abbey fan out there who could fill me in?

There are also aspects of both the art theft and the terrorist plot that don't make sense. Skye takes such efforts to cover the criminal trail and to throw red herrings that she lost at least this reader on the way.

Two things kept me going. One was the details on rock-climbing. Skye's obvious research pays off well: all these scene are well-written, easy to visualize and quite gripping.

The other was the engaging main characters. In many ways, Dakota is the run-in-the-mill tough guy: an athletic loner who prefers getting things done than getting into the limelight. He is, however, secure enough to accept both criticism and instruction from a woman. He is also in touch with his feelings and does not spend too much time ignoring the obvious. Nell is quite well-rounded. It was easy to sympathize with her feelings for her father and to admire her skill at climbing. Both these likeable characters deserve a much better story.  

--Mary Benn


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