Like a Knife by Annie Soloman
(Warner, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-446-61230-8
Like a Knife is a story with a very good beginning and a good middle; unfortunately, the story loses its focus toward the end. The pacing and the flow are terrific, but I felt cheated that I stayed up past my bedtime to finish this tale of romantic suspense

Rachel Goodman knows firsthand how violence can haunt children. She lost her mother to violence as a child. So now she runs a preschool for children who have been traumatized and need special care.

With very limited funds, Rachel must seek all the donations and help she can get. Rachel feels fortunate to have the school's handyman, Nick Raine, around to help with the large workload.

She knows little about Nick, he keeps to himself, but she suspects he is more than he appears to be and that, like her, he is haunted by something in his past. Rachel does know that Nick can be counted on and that he is there for her when she needs his help.

Rachel thinks her biggest concern is funding for her school until she is kidnapped. It seems that Nick's past has caught up with him and his former "associates" feel that they can get to Nick through Rachel. Nick's former friends make it clear that he either works for them again, or Rachel will be hurt. Nick's task is to find a six-year-old boy, who may or may not be his son.

Nick can't let Rachel be hurt and he can't do anything to harm a child. His only option is to protect them both as best he can. But Rachel doesn't want Nick's protection, especially if it means Nick has to return to the nightmare that was his life before he knew Rachel.

Like a Knife starts out strong by introducing Rachel and Nick as interesting complex characters with pasts that need to be resolved before they can get together. And when Nick's past comes back to bite him, it is still a good story.

Nick and Rachel both need to face their pasts in order to move on. But the book loses credibility when the focus moves away from these two dealing with their emotional burdens. The formula sex and violence used for the ending just made me wince.

I truly thought I'd be recommending Like a Knife; I certainly enjoyed most of this book, which is why I stayed up past my bedtime to read the ending. However, the quality of the last 100 pages does not live up to the quality of the first 250 pages, so don't do what I did and lose any sleep over this one.

--Judith Flavell

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