Ricochet by Nancy Baker Jacobs
(Five Star, $25.95, V) ISBN 1-59414-076-6
Itís never a good sign when, while reading a suspense novel, the reader thinks the heroine is getting exactly what she deserves. Stupidity reaches new heights in Jacobsí latest.

Annabel Nettleton is in a bad marriage. Her husband, Dylan, convinced her they should marry after she discovered she was pregnant. So even though they didnít know each other all that well, Annabel agrees. While she adores her one-year-old son, Nicky, her marriage is a source of unhappiness. The family has been living a nomadic life, moving from place to place, never completely settling down. Now Dylan wants to move the family from Carmel, California, to Salt Lake City and Annabel has had enough.

She consults a divorce lawyer and has plans to put her foot down with Dylan as soon as he returns from his latest mysterious business trip. Before he gets home though, a private detective comes calling. Seems Dylan is the long lost grandson of a dying millionaire and could stand to inherit a whole mess of money. More confused than ever, Annabel shares this bit of interesting news with Dylan when he gets home, and he flips out. He stalks off and literally disappears. When he later turns up murdered, and it looks like little Nicky could be next in line for the fortune, the police begin to suspect the grieving widow.

The suspense thread is really pretty good, with several secondary characters crawling out of the woodwork when news of the missing heir starts to get national news coverage. These characters keep the story humming along, and the mystery of whom Dylan Nettleton really is makes for an interesting read. Too bad the whole thing revolves around Annabel who has about as much brains as a sack of bricks.

Iíve read a lot of books, and have come across a lot of stupid characters, but Annabel by far takes the grand prize. Even though sheís been married to her husband for well over a year, she knows nothing about this man. She cannot even tell the police or her lawyer what the guy does for a living. All she knows is that Dylan takes care of their money, and cash miraculously appears in her checking account every month. And itís not like Dylan lied to her about his occupation; she never even asked, so he didnít tell.

It also doesnít help Annabelís case that sheís one of these women who constantly needs to be rescued by the big, strong man on the white horse. In the case of Ricochet, itís her divorce turned criminal lawyer. Max is attracted to his client and feels guilty about it. However, most of this attraction seems to stem from his need to protect Annabel Ė and since the woman has so little brains, she needs a lot of protection. Bad stuff keeps happening to her, but instead of taking the bull by the horns and kicking some butt, she sits around feeling sorry for herself while someone else cleans up the mess.

The advance copy of Ricochet I received for review doesnít even clock in at 260 pages, and it took me a week to get through it. Never a good sign, especially since the suspense really is pretty decent. Annabelís lackluster character and brain-damaged intelligence are so hard to overlook it really shadows the good that does exist in the story. Bad things do happen to good people, but Annabel is so clueless that I couldnít help thinking she was getting exactly what she deserved.

--Wendy Crutcher

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