Dangerous Games
by Justine Davis, contemporary (1999)
Signet, $5.99, ISBN 0-451-40773-3

I haven't read Justin Dare/Davis after Skypirate (which is a wonderful futuristic romance), so I guess it is time for me to catch up. Dangerous Games is an exciting, sexy, and thrilling story of romantic intrigue that has me reading up all night. My husband loves it too. Of course sometimes I question his reading taste (Victor "Dose Me With Prozac" Hugo anyone?) but this time I think I'll agree with him completely.

Of course, Dangerous Games being a sequel of sorts of Dangerous Ground, the opening has me a tad confused, so forgive me if I get the synopsis a bit off. It seems our hero, Lake McGregor, is one of two only survivors of a covert operations group called the Wolf Pack. In the previous book, the other survivor managed to stop whoever it was that orchestrated the Wolf Pack's demise, but the assassin that does the dirty work is still on the loose. Lake, an assassin himself, is hot on this killer's trail. One day he reads an obituary of his estranged father in a newspaper. Sensing something amiss, he heads back to his hometown in Colorado. There, he is enraged to find a private painting of his hanging on the window of Alison Carlyle's gallery. He demands an explanation and removal of the painting, and find himself dangerously attracted to her. Their attraction eventually puts Alison in danger from the killer.

The pace of this story never plods, indeed, it is so well-done that I could feel the air taut with tension and fear. Alison and Lake have me rooting for them, and sometimes I find myself biting my lip in anticipation and nervousness as I turn the pages. Some so-called thrillers are as exciting as pushing through cold rotten fish in the market, but this one is good. The vivid kaleidoscope of anticipation, excitement, fear, and intrigue that Ms Dare displayed in her Skypirate and other futuristic novels from Topaz Dreamspun is still intact, better in fact. This book is one exciting whopper.

And I must say it is refreshing to read of a heroine who is pushing 40 and a hero probably over 40. I'm glad to know folks after 38 can still do the wild thing. For a while I am beginning to wonder.

Yet two things irritated me. One, most chapters are prefaced by italicized, rambling paragraphs detailing the killer's thoughts. While it's fine the first, second, third time, the tenth time I read yet another rambling about how good it feels to cut Luke's throat, I want to just scream in annoyance. Enough! Enough!

Two, if there is any hero way too tortured, it's Luke. He always believe he has killed his brother so he thinks his soul is damned. In an attempt to redeem his Wolf Pack buddies' souls, he does all the dirtiest work - killing - himself (that's a new one!). Torture, torture, torture. Then he discovers he didn't really kill his brother after all (don't say I'm spoiling the story - you really believe the editors will let a hero be a child-killer?). Is he happier now? Are you kidding? Now he has to suffer a healthy dose of total guilt over the lives he has killed, never mind they are scumbags and villains of the highest order. Guilt #1 gone, Guilt #2 sets in. He uses heroine, ruthless suppressing his emotions, to flush out bad guy. Heroine gets hurt, Guilt #3 sets in. Then there's this thing with his father... with his mother... with the townspeople... Luckily at the end Luke gets better a lot or I'd suggest Alison invest in some shares in Prozac.

Still, DG is a really wonderful thriller. Fun, scary, nerve-wracking, a totally draining rollercoaster ride starring a non-screamy, non-I'm-independent-so-watch-me-walk-dark-deserted-streets-alone-without-weapons-because-I-loathe-guns heroine who understands the tortured Luke more than anyone else. And I always have a weakness for art. Ms Dare has regained a long-lost fan.

Rating: 82

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