Ricochet

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From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. No one does steamy suspense like Brown (Chill Factor), as shown by this expert mix of spicy romance and sharply crafted crime drama. Det. Sgt. Duncan Hatcher, a sexy Savannah homicide cop, falls hard for Elise Laird, a dishy damsel-in-distress, the moment he spots her at a police awards dinner. Too bad she's married to Judge Cato Laird, who consistently subverts Hatcher's efforts to bring local drug lord Robert Savich to justice. When Hatcher and his feisty partner, Det. DeeDee Bowen, are called to the Laird home after Elise supposedly shoots an intruder in self-defense, the desperate trophy wife confides to Hatcher that she believes her husband, a secret Savich crony, intended her to be the intruder's victim. Later, as the uncertain Hatcher grapples with his desires, Elise vanishes, leaving behind another dead body. Tight plotting, a hot love story with some nice twists and a credible ending help make this a stand-out thriller. (Aug.)

From The Washington Post

My criteria for book reviewing are pretty clear: Did I believe the characters? Was it a good story, well told? Did I want to put the book down or keep reading? Bottom line, would I read another book by this author?

For Ricochet, my answer to these questions is a resounding yes. It's a great, entertaining read, with lots of surprising twists and turns, credibly flawed characters and a love affair that's as steamy as a Savannah summer.

Hunky yet sensitive Detective Duncan Hatcher is called to investigate the gorgeous and wildly manipulative Elise Laird when she kills a burglar in her elegant home, supposedly in self-defense. Complicating the case is that Mrs. Laird is the trophy wife of a patrician judge who dislikes our hero. Worse, her account of the murder is somewhere between sketchy and laughable.

Hatcher finds himself falling for the mysterious Mrs. Laird, even as he uncovers each new fact that seems to suggest that the murder was intentional and the burglar, Gary Ray Trotter, no stranger. Hatcher doubts Mrs. Laird's increasingly weak explanations, but he still can't help thinking about her body. Here's Mrs. Laird explaining her case to him:

" 'I'd been expecting it for several months. Not a burglary, specifically. But something. This was the moment I'd been dreading.' She pressed her fist against the center of her chest, right above her heart, pulling the fabric of her T-shirt tight across her breasts. 'I knew, Detective. I knew.' Whispering that, she raised her head and looked up at him. 'Gary Ray Trotter wasn't a thief I caught in the act. He was there to kill me.'

" Duncan pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes as though concentrating hard, trying to work out the details in his mind. Actually, he had to do something to keep from drowning in those damn eyes of hers or becoming fixated on her breasts. He wanted to haul her up against him, kiss her, and see if her mouth delivered as promised. Instead, he pinched the skin between his eye sockets until it hurt like hell. It helped him to refocus. Some."

Then he finds out she used to be a topless dancer. How great is that?

You've seen this femme-fatale plotline before, of course, but it's terrific when it's well done, as it is here. Mrs. Laird may be a double-crossing dame, but she's no dummy, though to tell more would ruin the fun. The storyline is updated by the presence of Detective DeeDee Bowen, Hatcher's no-nonsense female partner. Naturally, Bowen suspects every scheming inch of Mrs. Laird and calls Hatcher on his crush with your basic snap-out-of-it speech. Leave it to a woman to add that touch of testosterone.

The cat-and-mouse relationship between Hatcher and Mrs. Laird kept me turning the pages, and when the mystery blonde vanished in the middle of the novel, I found myself worried about her, even though I wasn't sure I liked her or her employment history. Still, I was happy to be kept guessing until the end, which came as a genuine surprise.

My only quibble is that this bestselling author sometimes settles for phrases such as "copious notes" and even "silver-tongued." She's a better writer than that, and I'm enough of a Strunk and White fan to want her to avoid clichés.

But I'm also a Sandra Brown fan, thanks to Ricochet.

Reviewed by Lisa Scottoline