Melting the Ice

 
The Heart of a Renegade
by Loreth Anne White
(SRS #1505, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-27575-5
****
Jessica Chan is an overachiever with much to prove to herself, and to the world. Through hard work she became one of the BBC's top foreign correspondents. In China, while investigating the influence of the Communist Party with some of the better known triads, she was kidnapped. Held for a couple weeks in an effort to secure information, Jessica was tortured with mind altering hallucinogenic designer drugs. The man spearheading the sessions was known as "The Chemist."

After her escape, it was still not over for Jessica. She was tormented with hallucinations which distorted her ability to discern reality from fiction. After extensive hospitalization and psychotherapy she started work again. Part of her problem has been her inability to convince the Chinese authorities that the chemical torture had really happened. In an effort to start over, Jessica responded to her friend Stephanie's invitation to move to Vancouver and work there.

During Jessica's recovery she began taking pictures of activities to assure herself of the reality of her days. Continuing this habit, one day in Vancouver she sees The Chemist and photographs him and the men with him. This triggers murderous events.

First Stephanie is murdered so Jessica knows the Chinese are aware of the photos. She calls a US official she had known in China for help and he tells her to hide and get back with him in two days. This friend is almost immediately murdered, drawing the attention of the CIA, who also wants her now for her photos.

Enter Luke Stone, a former operative of a private mercenary organization headed by Jacque Sauvage. Operating where governmental organizations can not, they make their living "assisting them." The CIA asks them to protect Jessica and get her out of Vancouver so they can put her in a safe house and utilize the photos. Luke comes with the baggage of having not been able to protect his wife and child so he is more than reluctant to chance someone else's life again. Nevertheless he responds, agreeing only to protect her for the brief time it takes the CIA helicopter to fly in and pick her up.

When Luke's house is blown up, he quickly realizes there is a major leak somewhere. Now Jessica and Luke are truly on the run.

The Heart of the Renegade is a skillfully crafted novel, packed with complex characters involved in a well-used plot line; however, it is innovatively done. Loreth Anne White's pacing is superb, maintaining ever mounting intensity as the story plays out. This story is rich with detail, and a plot that could be expanded to a 450 page hardcover. That said, it does not feel as if it were condensed but evolves in the expected manner only to twist and turn a bit adding interest and suspense. The dynamics between Jessica and Luke are extraordinarily well handled.

White is a very gifted author and whose future novels will be sought out by this reviewer.

--Thea Davis


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