The Cowboy's Baby Surprise.

Shadow Force by Linda Conrad
(Silh. Int. Mom. #1413, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-27483-1
Shadow Force is the first novel in “Night Guardians” series featuring the Navajo brotherhood. They books are set in the Four Corners area of Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado on the Navaho reservation. They feature a continuing plot of good versus evil steeped in Native American ways and based solidly in the paranormal.

The reader will soon realize that there is some large dark paranormal evil force seeking to absorb the Navahos and, based on some fragmentary translation of an aged document, a counterforce has been organized to combat this evil. The counterforce is known as The Brotherhood and the evil force is designated The Skinwalkers.

Skinwalkers are also shape shifters and appear to be led by the evil Wolf. His right hand assistant is The Snake and his forte is mind control. They have in their possession a Middle Eastern terrorist who is shopping for classified data on a stealth helicopter. The FBI has information this terrorist is there and they assign agent Kody Long to investigate.

Navy Commander Wilson, a genius scientist working at White Sands, is heavily involved in this project, and is somehow lured to the reservation to explore his hobby of Native American antiquities. He planned to meet his daughter Dr. Reagan Wilson in Albuquerque but she is told he has gone on ahead. She is on the reservation looking for him when a swarm of bees attacks her.

Kody Long is also one of The Brotherhood and recognizes the bee attack for what it is – an attack on Reagan by the Skinwalkers. Thus starts his role as her protector. His close proximity allows him to try and discover why the Skinwalkers are so interested in her.

Reagan is the pivotal point, as the Skinwalkers believe they can use her to pressure her father who by now they have kidnapped as well. The hunt is on and one unbelievable coincidence follows another in a story that already requires a large amount of suspension of disbelief.

Reagan is the archetypical female geek, who has had a limited social life, is insecure with men and women alike and lives in her lab or on the Internet with her nerdy pals. She is a woman, very susceptible to the raw sexual masculinity of Kody. Kody’s baggage is pretty substantial too – his first wife was Anglo who denigrated his Navajo ways.

The Snake believes if Reagan’s mind is clouded by sexual fantasy and lust then she will be less able to resist his mind control ventures. So while he is not exactly Cupid, the reader might reach that conclusion.

The good characters are pretty one dimensional and the evil ones are just there, deliberately not developed at all. The author works in a few customs and tradition of the Navajo, but for the most part the description of setting is fairly light.

--Thea Davis

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