Gabriel West: Still the One
by Fiona Brand
(Silh. Int. Mom #1219, $4.75, PG) ISBN 0-373-27289-8
****
Fiona Brand has created her own Special Forces unit in New Zealand and this fifth novel concerns one of the members of that group. Whereas the other books brought a distinct sense of New Zealand to the reader, that is missing in this novel. Instead, she focuses upon characters that her fans have already met, creating in a strange way a sense of old home week.

Gabriel West has been in and out of her novels, and is known to balance his quiet killer side with a penchant for hardware computer designer. Five years before this story opens, Gabrielís cold, remote and distant side became more than his wife, Tyler, could stand and they parted company. Neither had sought a divorce, and Gabriel became more deadly as years passed.

Tyler, on the other hand, having been adopted by parents who were royalty in the diamond and other precious items trade, sought to prove herself after Gabe left and succeeded in obtaining her doctorate in anthropology.

Working in the family business, precious jade artifacts discovered by Tyler and owned by her family are stolen. The computer security system virtually guarantees that it is an inside job, and people are beginning to think she is the culprit. When her felonious biological father surfaces, it exacerbates public sentiment against her.

Meanwhile, Gabe having never divorced Tyler but having never tried to get her back, nearly loses it in an undercover operation because he sees Tyler in the face of an innocent bystander and tries to save that personís life, jeopardizing his own. Recognizing burnout, Gabe quits the SAS and methodically plans his attempt to win Tyler back.

To that end, he moves into her apartment house and just happens to be around when she is mugged in the car park and her computer is stolen. Acting as a mother hen, he is also in her apartment after she is released from the hospital when an intruder pays her a late night call in her bedroomÖnot realizing Gabe is holding a vigil on the sofa.

The book moves rapidly, and has two focuses: the solving of the jade theft and the identity of her assailant, and the attempts of two people five years later to understand what went wrong and why. For a change, the emotional baggage from childhood is pretty much the same for each character; it is explored but does not overwhelm.

People dynamics is the key to this book, and although it lacks some of the qualities that have made Fiona Brandís other books so very good, it does quickly ensnare readers into the lives of the protagonists. And since fans already know most of them, Brand manages to add each some more depth, although this story can well stand alone.

--Thea Davis


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