The Fire Still Burns

Kill Me Twice

Killer Curves

Like a Hurricane

Tropical Getaway

Thrill Me to Death
by Roxanne St. Claire
(Pocket Books, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 1-4165-2185-2)
Roxanne St. Claire is true to her usual top form with Thrill Me to Death, second in her Bullet Catcher series about bodyguards and the women they protect. Once again, she gives us a generous dose of likeable characters, suspense-filled story and unexpected twists and turns.

Cori Peyton and Max Roper met several years earlier when he was working with her father for the Drug Enforcement Agency. They would have married had her father not died on a street bust. Cori blamed Max, denounced him to the agency, and abandoned her plans for law school. A year later, she met and married William Peyton, a billionaire developer quite a few years older than her. Now, Peyton is dead and the wealthy widow doesnít feel very safe. Max, who has been working for the Bullet Catchers, a private bodyguard service, is assigned to protect her and to investigate the possibility of homicide. For, in the eyes of the insurance company, Peytonís death doesnít add up, and the not-so-merry widow has the most obvious motive, means and opportunity.

Needless to say, Cori isnít guilty; instead she has her own suspicions of foul play. For reasons that are neither entirely clear nor completely convincing, she doesnít share these with anyone. Only after the attacks against her multiply and her doubts are confirmed does she reveal her cards to Max. Hand in hand, they hunt for her husbandís murderer as they reconsider a future together.

Sexy and smart, Cori has all the sparkle of other St. Claire heroines. Despite tragic events in her recent and not too recent past, she gets on with life and doesnít spend hours brooding and whining and bemoaning her sorry state. Yes, she does a couple of stupid things, like investigating without her bodyguard when danger is looming. Then again, who hasnít taken some risks after weighing the odds? And sheís hardly the first to change the course of her life because of a stupid error in judgment.

Max has less presence than St. Claireís other leading men. Lacking both substantial back-story and distinctive qualities, he could easily disappear in a crowd of romance-land bodyguards, federal agents, and ex-military men. Which doesnít mean this strong, silent type who depends on action more than words isnít hero material. He is, in any case, perfect for Cori. He may be hired for his brawn and build, but he doesnít underestimate her brains, independence or know- how. And though sizzling isnít the word I would use to describe their encounters, their playful banter and lively interactions make their affection and passion quite tangible.

The mystery is more complicated than what Iíve been seeing in many recent romantic suspense novels. Even if the final unveiling isnít completely surprising, getting there involves a couple of red herrings and several lines of investigation. Iím not convinced all of them are entirely necessary: St. Claire spends a little too much time introducing other Bullet Catchers. Frankly, this didnít ruin my pleasure. On the contrary, I was delighted to meet them and look forward to reading about them very soon. Given her stellar track record and this engaging production, St. Claire is sure to pen more riveting stories for her hunky charmers.

--Mary Benn

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