Dangerous Liasons

The Man She Almost Married

Moment of Truth

On Dangerous Ground

Sure Bet by Maggie Price
(SIM #1263, $4.75, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-27333-9
I’ve read and enjoyed one of Maggie Price’s previous books, Dangerous Liasons, so I was excited to give Sure Bet a try. Now that I’ve read two of Price’s novels, I can say this: she’s very good. Sure Bet surpassed my expectations of a solid, enjoyable read.

Rookie Officer Morgan McCall is soon to complete her training at the police academy. For a week now, she’s noticed an unfamiliar man who visits the academy and observes her during several training exercises. Morgan knows he’s official — “She’d spotted him shaking hands with the major in charge of training, so there was no doubt he had authorization to be there.” Nevertheless, his attention focuses on her, something she finds both unnerving and compelling.

The mystery man turns out to be Sergeant Alexander Blade, and he’s there to give Morgan her first assignment: to go undercover. The goal is to gather evidence against Carlton Spurlock, who is suspected of multiple homicide. Morgan is selected for the assignment because of her training record — she’s the highest performer in her class —and her specialized knowledge of gardening, an interest that’s shared by Spurlock. Alex and Morgan are soon preparing for the mission and spending considerable time together. Eventually, they move into the house next door to Spurlock and pose as a married couple.

This brief summary may sound like other stories you’ve read before, but Sure Bet includes some unexpected plot developments — one that includes the car explosion shown on the book’s cover — and two strong, well-developed characters. Watching Alex and Morgan’s initial attraction develop into something more is easily the most compelling part of the book.

Both bring baggage from past relationships. Alex’s ex-wife left him because she couldn’t understand his desire to continue his undercover work instead of promoting to a desk job. Morgan blames herself for allowing a college boyfriend to distract her from her studies; she worries that a relationship will prevent her from doing the work she loves. These issues result in mutual wariness, but the close proximity required by the undercover assignment allows Morgan and Alex to learn more about each other and to see past their insecurities.

If there’s a flaw in the story, it’s that the villains are just a little too predictable. The story’s conclusion also seems slightly rushed, though I suspect the cause for that lies in the constraints (i.e., the page count) of the series. In any case, these slight criticisms are outweighed by Price’s skillful depiction of the sexual tension between Morgan and Alex, which builds slowly and realistically and kept me engrossed.

There are two more books in Maggie Price’s Line of Duty trilogy. If the remaining books are anything like this one, they’ll be terrific. You can bet I’ll be there for the next installment.

--Alyssa Hurzeler

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