BEACHCOMBER
Karen Robards


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Atria Books, August 2003
Reviewed by Barbara Fielding

Attorney Christy Petrino discovers her boss and fiancÚ Michael De Palma is operating a money laundering front for the Masseria mob crime family. Coming from New Jersey, Christy is familiar with mob connections since she grew up surrounded by them. Her father was the victim of a mob hit when she was a child, but she has always steered clear of any business with the mob family. When Christy discovers the Philadelphia law firm she works for is a front for the mob, she breaks things off with her fiancÚ, and tries to run home to mom. Waylaid by her mother's boyfriend, "Uncle" Vince, who warns her not to tell anyone, or go to the cops with her discovery, she is offered one way out. If Christy agrees to deliver a package for him, he will get her off the hook with the mob.

Posing as a vacationer at Uncle Vince's North Carolina beach house on the Ocracoke Island, Christy delivers the briefcase just as instructed. As she returns to the house along the beach, she discovers the body of a young woman and nearly comes face to face with a shadowy figure in the moonlight. The police believe the young woman is the latest victim of a serial killer called "the beachcomber" who has operated in the Outer Banks area for the past three years. But is she really the victim of a serial killer? Or was the young girl the victim of a hit man who thought he was eliminating Christy?

Luke Rand, the occupant of the beach rental next door, comes to Christy's aid, when he hears her screams on the beach, and later when someone tries to break into her beach house. Luke is a handsome lawyer on vacation, and is always conveniently nearby when danger threatens. Christy is unsure who to trust. Is she being chased by the mob or possibly a serial killer? She feels safe with Luke, but perhaps it's just due to the effects of fear and danger that sparks the attraction she feels for him.

THE BEACHCOMBER is a fast paced thriller that opens with a scene from the killer's point of view. Vividly portrayed, the killer adds a chilling element to this romantic suspense tale. The action moves quickly from one life-threatening situation to the next as Christy Petrino's involvement gradually unfolds. Luke Rand is an appealing character who occasionally offers some comedic relief to this disturbing story. With the fast pace of action there isn't much time for love to develop, therefore the romantic relationship is almost entirely based on their steamy physical attraction. The plot is complex, with the serial killer story line, the mob background connections, and the romantic relationship all converging into an unexpected turn toward the end. This book has a lot going on, and readers might be unnerved by some scenes, but you definitely won't be bored. Robards is a best-selling romantic suspense author with a long list of titles including most recently, WHISPERS AT MIDNIGHT, TO TRUST A STRANGER and PARADISE COUNTY.

 

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