The Bitch Factor by Chris Rogers
(Bantam, $22.95, G) ISBN 0-553-10659-7
****
Gritty, intense, and energetic, Bitch Factor is Chris Rogers' first book. In this mystery/suspense novel she introduces bounty hunter, Dixie Flannigan. Dixie is one of the most appealing heroines to hit fiction in a long time. Happily, Bitch Factor is the first book of a new series featuring Dixie.

Dixie is 39 years old and single because she has been unable to trust anyone enough to establish a meaningful relationship. After 10 years as an Assistant District Attorney, she quit cold turkey to become a bounty hunter. She did so because she was disillusioned with a system which often permits the guilty to walk. Redefining the concept of tough, Dixie is a super bright woman with a biting sense of humor.

Sixth-grader Betsy Keyes was walking to school one spring morning when she is killed by a hit and run driver. The vehicle was identified as one that belonged to Parker Dann. He was immediately arrested and this book begins at the Christmas break in Parker's trial for manslaughter. When court reconvenes in January, there is little doubt in anyone's mind that the jury will return a guilty verdict.

Parker Dann is a rugged good-looking 40-year-old super-salesman. Long on charm and intelligence, he can see the writing on the wall. So after court adjourns, Parker hits the road for Canada. His attorney suspects that he might be running, and when she can't find him, she hires Dixie to bring him back.

Utilizing her network of informants, Dixie discovers Parker is heading north from Houston. She manages to catch him in South Dakota and they head back to Texas. However, the snowstorm of the year hits and what would have become a trip measured in long hours becomes one measured in days. During that time, Dixie begins to entertain the concept that Parker could be innocent.

Instead of Parker denying he committed the crime, she finds a man tormented and anguished by the thought that he might have killed the child. The night before the accident Parker had been celebrating a huge business success and was drinking heavily. He not only didn't remember driving his car the following morning, but he couldn't account for his time from when he left the bar until well after the accident. When Dixie finds that Betsy's sister died in a swimming accident at camp a couple months after Betsy's death, she offers to help Parker investigate in the days remaining before court reconvenes.

This novel has a highly innovative plot, well structured, and filled with crisp, humorous dialog. It is fast moving and filled with endearing and sympathetic characters. And what a delight to read a book where everything works together. This is certainly a wonderful choice for a change of pace. It has an abundance of everything for a mystery/suspense reader. A romance reader will have to make do with a little sexual tension.

If I were writing for The Mystery Reader instead of The Romance Reader, Bitch Factor would have garnered a five heart rating.

--Thea Davis


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