Acts of Honor

Lady Liberty

Shades of Gray

Lady Justice by Vicki Hinze
(Bantam, $6.50, PG) ISBN 0-553-58353-0
Gabrielle Kincaid is an agent with the Special Detail Unit, an ultra-secret antiterrorism agency of the federal government. She has been posing as a judge in Carnel Cove, Florida, to investigate reports of judicial corruption in the trials of several Global Warriors, members of a terrorist group. The whistle-blowing judge has since died of Z-4027, a deadly form of eastern equine encephalitis; Gabby suspects murder. On undercover operations, Gabby and Max Grayson occasionally pose as husband and wife. Their relationship is strictly professional, but secretly their feelings run deeper.

The Consortium is an organization that contracts with groups to commit terrorist acts. Various Global Warrior operatives are spreading human and plant disease and infection worldwide with the intent of extorting money from governments for the antidote.

A judge in Gabby’s court has cooperated with the Consortium. He is concerned that she may be aware of his activities and arranges with the Consortium to have her killed. The attempt goes awry and Gabby kills one of the attackers, but upon seeing the would-be perpetrator, a known Global Warrior, she knows that she has been identified. She contacts the SDU to report and recommends that she be eliminated so that the agency remains anonymous.

In a meeting including Commander Conlee and Vice President Sibyl Stone concerning Gabby’s report, Max is ordered to kill her. He initially agrees but finds it difficult to do once he arrives. Then there are greater problems: a hurricane is hitting Florida and a local research facility is vandalized; mosquitoes carrying the deadly Z-4027 are released. Gabby is bit multiple times, and there is no successful treatment.

The story starts at high speed with lots of action. The conflict is established quickly: Gabby and Max are “married” and have deep feelings for each other but have never acted on them because of their professional commitments. Now Gabby believes her affiliation with SDU has been compromised, and Max is sent to kill her. Meanwhile, there’s a race to stop biological disasters being wreaked by a group of eco-terrorists who contract out their horrible deeds.

Then about midway through the book the plot jumps track. Gabby is dying, Max is frantic, and a bunch of ladies from Carnel Cove have taken charge. Wait a minute! Where’d all these characters come from? Perhaps the intent is to set up yet another sequel, but this abrupt change in focus weakens the plot in this book.

This sequel to Lady Liberty does not stand completely on its own. The relationship between Gabby and Vice President Sibyl Stone was apparently established in the previous book, but there are dangling questions. For one: if Gabby and Sibyl were college roommates and Gabby is now thirty-five, how much of an age gap is there between them? Ten years? More? Sibyl must be over thirty-five, or she couldn’t have been elected Vice President, and just one or two years aren’t going to do it. Sibyl’s love interest obviously has his own history with Gabby, but there’s no back story to fill in the holes. Similarly, the Special Detail Unit was introduced in Lady Liberty, and the explanation in Lady Justice is cursory. Lady Justice falls into the romantic suspense subgenre, and while the suspense is stronger than the romance, the romance doesn’t get lost in the flurry of action. This is a plot-driven story with less emphasis on character development, but Gabby and Max are not merely one-dimensional. In contrast to multiple romances where the hero does all the derring-do and the heroine’s sole role is to admire him for his manly deeds, a book with strong women doing as much and more than the male characters is most welcome.

This book failed to get a recommended rating because of the abrupt change in focus in the middle, but it could still be a good choice for readers who enjoy romantic suspense.

--Lesley Dunlap

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