After Dark

As Good As Dead

Dangerous Deception

Every Move She Makes

Her Secret Weapon

In the Arms of a Hero

The Last to Die

Penny Sue Got Lucky

The Princess's Bodyguard

Ramirez's Woman

What She Doesn't Know

A Time to Die
by Beverly Barton
(HQN, $6.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-77249-0
Beverly Barton created the Dundee Security Agency based in Atlanta and populated it with ex Special Forces types from all branches of service, supplemented by burned out agents from the FBI and other agencies. Their business is protection and they have earned a reputation for excellence that supports their high fees.

This guardian theme is integrated into the very common plot line that runs through all the novels in the "Protector Series." What elevates them from the trite and mundane is the development by Barton of her principal characters. A Time to Die enjoys this distinction as well as having a plot that requires several sub plots.

Ten years ago, self absorbed and ambitious Lexie Murrough is the reporter covering the inauguration of the African country Gadi's new president. During the ceremony, gunfire erupts, he is assassinated and Lexie is so carried away with her breaking story that she insists that her cameraman cover the shots fired and rather than seeking cover. He does so and is hit and killed by errant gunfire. Too late, Lexie tries to make her escape. Before getting away she takes a shot in the back, and finds herself in the arms of a US soldier.

She awakens to a partial paralysis, soldier gone, and years of physical therapy to walk again with a cane. The years have greatly changed her for the better, and she is now in Chattanooga as president of a philanthropic organization funded by the Bedell Corporation. Some of her more special projects involve the country of Gadi, and she has several employees from that country.

One day the office building owned by Bedell where she works is bombed and Cara Bedell immediately calls the Dundee agency. Numbering among the employees is Deke Bronson, retired Special Forces who had been on the team that had been sent in to assassinate the Gadi president. He had been Lexie's rescuer, essentially because it was he who had fired the bullet that caught her in the crossfire. He has a lot of guilt focused on this incident and has kept track of Lexie's progress through the years of therapy.

Deke and Geoff Monday are sent to mount the investigation, to coordinate with the local detective Bain Desmond and to organize the protection of Lexie and Cara Bedell. The threat seems to be focused on the bomber's hatred of Lexie, and he promises if Cara fires her, the destruction will stop. Cara holds firm, the incidents multiply, each incident killing someone else employed by Bedell or the charitable organization.

The Gadi employees become the focus of the investigation and the personal lives of these employees are elevated to sub plots. The characters are memorable and the interaction is skillfully done.

Romances abound, not the least the unrequited one between Dain and Cara, probably to rise up in a future novel. With so many subplots, tension is hard to sustain, and flounders at odd moments. Some scene changes are super abrupt, taking away from the usual fine pacing of prior Barton stories. All of this said, Barton is topical with the terrorist plot, and the novel is slightly better than an average read.

--Thea Davis

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