2000 Kisses

Christmas Knight

Code Name: Nanny

Going Overboard

My Spy

The Perfect Gift

 
Code Name: Princess
by Cristina Skye
(Dell, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-440-23761-0
****
As soon as I started reading Code Name: Princess, I found myself sucked in by the non-stop action. I knew, right away, that there were far too many coincidences and that the level of implausibility was far too high, but the characters were so attractive and the action too fast and furious to allow my critical judgment to overrule my enjoyment.

We were introduced to the heroine of Code Name: Princess in Ms. Skye’s preceding book, Code Name: Nanny, a book that there’s absolutely no need for you to have read to understand this one, thank heavens. Jessica Mulcahey is the younger sister of Summer Mulcahey, the protagonist of “Nanny.” Their parents died when they were fifteen, the twins were split up, and Jess was sent to a Dickensian clinic for treatment of her eating disorder and drinking problem.

The clinic’s ‘reality-based behavior modification’ treatment left deep scars on Jess’ already fragile psyche. Her sister, older by a few minutes, has tried to shield Jess; in turn, Jess is striving to prove she can take care of herself. It isn’t easy. She is deeply in debt, thanks to an investment in “a new hotel venture in Mexico” which turned out to be a flim-flam. Consequently, she took a job as a hotel inspector, working undercover to assess the cleanliness, quality, and honesty of the hotels in a chain.

Hawk Mackenzie is a 12-year SEAL veteran, on the trail of a captured Princess. No, the princess isn’t the offspring of royalty; she is a “priceless, genetically engineered” silver koala who has been hijacked while being transferred between facilities. (Why a koala? Is there something you can do to a koala that you can’t do to a lab rat a lot less expensively? This is one of those implausibilities I warned you about.)

Hawk is tracking the kidnappers through cold and muddy western Oregon when the combination of worsening weather and darkness force him to seek cover. He checks into a swank hotel to transmit data to headquarters and to grab a few hours of rest. His wounded ribs are hurting him, and he needs to upload all his digital images of tire tracks and shoe prints. He doesn’t need to find his room, and his shower, already occupied by a woman who may well be somebody else’s undercover agent.

He quickly discovers that her identity, Elena Grimaldi, is an obvious fake and that the files on her computer look mighty suspicious. What he is looking at, of course, are Jess’ point-by-point analysis of her hotel assessments, but Jess doesn’t get a chance to explain before Hawk knocks her out and cuffs her to the bed with a plastic hand restraint.

When Jess comes to, she is frightened, but…as she listens to Hawk talking to headquarters in the next room…she begins to get angry as well. She manages to hook her overnight bag with her foot, drag it over to the bed, fish out her nail clippers, and snip through the hand restraint. Then it’s into her sweats and out the window. (She’s in a first floor room.)

Logically, here’s where the story should have ended, on page 24. As soon as Hawk realized Jess had escaped, he packed up everything and left the hotel. For her part, Jess had hotel security escort her to her now-empty room, packed up her stuff, and headed for Portland. Not only was there no reason in the world for these two to meet again, but both felt – for different reasons - that another encounter was highly undesirable.

Not to worry, however. Ms. Skye is endlessly ingenious, and she piled on the coincidences skillfully. In quick succession, she arranged a motorcycle accident, a stalled elevator, and an untimely aggregation of reporters, all of which ultimately forced Jess and Hawk into the unlikely role of partners.

What makes it all work is, first of all, the non-stop pace. Secondly, both Jess and Hawk are attractive, convincing characters. Life has wounded Jess severely, but her adventures with Hawk put her in a position where she, and everyone around her, has to recognize her inner strengths.

Hawk is also wounded, physically, and his job has made him suspicious of, and distant from, civilians. Jess’ bravery, in spite of her traumas, breaks through the barriers he has erected against the world, in a very believable way.

Finally, the reappearance of Izzy Teague doesn’t hurt. Izzy maybe the most attractive continuing character in a series I’ve encountered yet, and I was happy to see him take a large part in this book. One of these days Izzy will get his own story, I’m sure. In the meantime, enjoy Code Name: Princess. I did.

--Nancy J. Silberstein


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