by Laura Griffin
(Pocket, $7.99, R)  ISBN  978-1-4391-4919-5
Alex Lovell, the intrepid owner of Lovell Solutions who appeared first in Laura Griffin's Whisper of Warning (2009), is back for her own fantastic suspense novel, Untraceable.

An expert at computers, Alex established her own private investigating firm years ago. Her passion, however, is not for insurance jobs or cheating spouses - it's helping endangered women. She puts her knack with computers and the internet to good use creating new identities and dummy trails to make sure their abusive significant others can never find them. Basically, Alex is a civilian witness protection program.

Things don't always go as planned, as Alex has discovered on more than one occasion. Melanie Coghan, the wife of respected Austin narcotics detective Craig Coghan, hasn't been heard from in months. Which is, obviously once Alex has stepped in, the idea. However, Alex hasn't heard from her, either, and cannot reach Melanie by her emergency contact methods. It doesn't take much digging for Alex to realize Melanie went against all of her advice and came back to the Austin area some time before. When Alex visits her last known address, she is witness to an explosion that destroys the home but comes away with a single piece of evidence that may or may not have blood on it.

Nathan Devereaux, a homicide detective in the Austin PD and a friend of Craig Coghan's, doesn't find Alex's iPod earbud evidence very convincing and her story of abuse even less so. Without a documented history and a body, there's not much Nathan can do, especially given Coghan's standing in the department. Putting his own job on the line, he starts digging into Coghan's work and discovers an underlying history with drugs and prostitutes that likely ties him to more crimes than just spousal abuse. Unfortunately, he and Alex are working against one another more often than not and neither of them is finding compelling evidence to provide the judicial system.

Nathan's interest in the case is often more personal than professional, so when Alex becomes a target things become even more tense between them. His ex-wife walking in on an intimate morning doesn't help. There's never anything certain about Alex's and Nathan's relationship until the last pages of the book, which romantic suspense readers will definitely enjoy. The mystery is well-crafted, and knowing who the villain is doesn't detract at all, especially with the twist that comes toward the end of the story. Readers will find both Nathan and Alex to be not only strong but sometimes irritatingly headstrong, their relationship believable despite the chaos surrounding them.

Griffin's previous novels have been good, quick reads, but Untraceable is fantastic. It's hard to put down, and fans of Karen Robards and Sandra Brown should check out this emerging author who I feel is destined for hardcovers and bestseller lists in the not-too-distant future.

--Sarrah Knight

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