Facing the Fire

Heart of a Thief
by Gail Barrett
(SRS #1514, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-27584-7
Heart of a Thief is part of "The Crusaders" miniseries.  If there is a master plot to the series it is hard to detect in this book. Although the story stands alone, it can be described as a chase scene across Spain involving two people with a bitter history encumbered by emotional baggage that extends far beyond their aborted love affair years prior.

A unique feature of the book is a glimpse into the life of the Gypsy culture in Spain. Luke Moreno is part of that close knit gypsy culture, although he conceals his origins carefully. His childhood career as a thief had not been well concealed and the world was too ready to believe that he had become an adult thief when five years earlier he was exposed by Sofia Mikhelson and her mentor and patron, Don Heredia.  

At that time Luke was in the security business guarding the very gems that disappeared. Sofia had chosen to believe her patron rather than her lover Luke, although Luke was never formally charged.

Luke is still in the security business with a new partner Antonio. They are guarding a thousand year old necklace, known as The Gypsy's Revenge. The necklace, inlaid with amber, had surfaced in Spanish Bank as part of the Nazi war loot. The book opens in Madrid at a ceremony where the necklace is to be returned to the true owners, the Royal Family of Roma. Sofia and her patron are guests at the ceremony.

The ceremony is interrupted by gunfire, the necklace is stolen and the guests scatter. Luke follows Sofia believing she is involved in the heist when he discovers his partner Antonio is involved. One of the thieves finds them and Sofia is shot in the leg as they are escaping. They get away but know they will be hunted down, and Luke is less than happy to be involved with Sofia on the run.

The fact that Sofia was shot does a little to allay Luke’s suspicion of her, and he is convinced her patron is the mastermind of the theft. Although there is no trust between them, the passion they had experienced is still very close to the surface thus the reader is treated to the lust versus trust battle as they fight to find the necklace. Unknown to Luke years ago, Sofia gradually reveals that her background is as unsavory as his.

The characters are fairly well developed, and Barrett uses the setting of Spain well, enhanced by the cultural addition of Gypsy life. The outcome with respect to their relationship and to the identity of the true thief is all too predictable, but the journey there is interesting and enjoyable.

--Thea Davis

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