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The Stranger She Knew
by Gayle Wilson
(Harl. Intigue #513, $3.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-22513-X
****
The Stranger She Knew is the second installment of Gayle Wilson's "Men of Mystery" series. The heroes are all members of the CIA's elite External Security Team, men trained to do the government's most dangerous work around the world. At the end of the first book, Jordan Cross blew his cover to save his friend and colleague Hawk. With his face plastered across the front page of newspapers all across the country, Jordan's usefulness to the agency is ended. His life is also in grave danger. He's made too many enemies over the years. So the agency arranges for him to get a new face and a new life.

Unfortunately, his new face bears a striking resemblance to one Rob Sorrel, a man with a price on his head. Seems that this one time New Orleans investment counselor had stolen $16 million from the mob.

Kathleen Sorrel has been paying for her husband's actions for three years. She fled her home with her two young children when the mob threatened Meg and Jamie in an effort to force her to tell them what she didn't know. She has settled in one small town after another, only to have her whereabouts discovered. She has become adept at noticing when she is being followed. Furious at the constant harassment, she approaches the car that has been following her and is shocked to see her husband's face in its window.

Jordan had been in San Francisco, trying to start a new life when a man in a bar seemed to recognize him. A couple of days later, he is accosted by two thugs. Thanks to his quick instincts and training, he is able to thwart their attack. But he discovers that he is a dead ringer for Rob Sorrel. Using his contacts, he finds out about the missing man. He also traces Sorrel's wife and children.

Kathleen flees from her "husband" in panic. She knows that his presence endangers her children. But when she spins out of control on an icy road, she is forced to depend on "Rob" for aid. She soon discovers that he is not her husband, but she finds it hard to believe his story. But Kathleen's fears are right. Soon she and Jordan and the two children are fleeing for their lives.

Forced to depend on this "stranger she knew." Kathleen soon discovers that Jordan is brave and honorable and caring. For his part, Jordan is much taken by the courageous woman who has tried so hard to protect her children. He is also much taken by the Meg and Jamie. His has been a lonely life and he wonders if he might have finally found the warmth and love he has missed.

Wilson sustains an aura of tension and danger throughout the book. As in The Bride's Protector, the bad guys include those who should be on the right side. Greed and betrayal play an important part in these stories.

Gayle Wilson has become an automatic buy for me, whether she is writing historicals or contemporaries. Her heroes exhibit the old fashion virtues of honor and duty. Her heroines are usually courageous and capable. Her stories are filled with action and suspense. The Stranger She Knew only enhances my appreciation of Wilson's storytelling ability.

--Jean Mason


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