Don't Mess With Texas
by Christie Craig
(Grand Central, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-0446-58284-1
Christie Craig has started a new trilogy about three former cops who were framed by a local gangster. They were actually convicted and spent some time in jail. Now they have opened their own private investigation firm and are determined to do two things: help others who have been wrongly accused of a crime and find a way to put the gangster behind bars. This is Dallas O'Connor's story.

Dallas comes from a law enforcement family and his two friend Austin and Tyler appreciate his sense of humor, his luck with the ladies and his connections that help them get the inside track on cases. Dallas's brother Tony is still a police detective and while not openly supporting them in their quest, he understands of their intentions. While having dinner with his brother, Dallas stumbles on a case that catches his interest for a multitude of reasons, the least of which, the accused murderer throws up all over his shoes and then his shirt.

Nikki Hunt is in a bad place. She is running out of money and her art is not selling like she had hoped. Her grandmother, who raised her, needs money. She has already sold her computer and the rent is coming due. Her ex-husband, Jack Leon, a man she divorced after finding him with her employee on the sofa in her office, is trying to get her back. He is an up and coming lawyer and needs a wife to get a partnership.

Nikki is considering it just for the money. But when he leaves their dinner early, and she thinks she has food poisoning, she discovers his dead body in the trunk of her car. Her apartment has also been vandalized and when she is in the hospital, her current best friend and employee is attacked at her art gallery and is hovering near death. Being worried about getting arrested seems like a little thing!

Dallas believes that Nikki is innocent and takes her under his protection, having connected the dots and becomeaware that all of these coincidences don't add up. He believes Jack was knee deep in something and now the killer thinks Nikki knows something she swears she doesn't know.

This is a caper-filled story that has no semblance to reality but is fun to read. No way would the police or a PI act the way they do and have Nikki still be walking around free. Her romance with Dallas is unsurprising but fun none-the-less. They are both just quirky enough to match up and have fun while denying they are falling in love. The secondary romance with Tony and his estranged wife is strong and provides many of the more emotional scenes.

Don't Mess With Texas does not break new ground, but it is a good madcap type romance. I look forward to Tyler and Austin's stories.

--Shirley Lyons

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