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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Bestselling romance author Julie Garwood has built both a career and a solid readership writing romances that offer a perfect blend of history, passion, and mystery. With novels like her recent hits Ransom and The Secret, Garwood has been delighting readers of historical romance for years. Now, with her latest release, entitled Heartbreaker, she brings her talent to bear on a contemporary saga, one that has all of Garwood's trademark passion and suspense spiced up with a modern-day flavor that will undoubtedly broaden her appeal.
Heartbreaker explores the dark and sinister corners of a serial killer's mind as he implements a masterful and deadly plan. At the heart of the plan is a jaded FBI agent, a Catholic priest who is his best friend, and the priest's sister, a lovely young woman named Laurant Madden. Laurant lives in Holy Oaks, Iowa, a quiet little town where the biggest crimes are the antics of the sheriff's son and the occasional fistfight among the rowdies. Still, Laurant's life is anything but dull. As one of the shop owners on the historic town square, she refuses to sell to the developer who wants to tear it all down and build a mall. Then there's the town big shot, who is determined to have Laurant as his wife, though she won't give him the time of day. Now Laurant's life is about to get much more complicated in a highly explosive way.
When Laurant's brother Tom hears a confession from a man who reveals a murderous past with almost casual indifference, the priest tries to convince the killer to give himself up. When the killer then claims he is about to commit murder again, Tom becomes even more desperate, though he assures the man his confession is confidential and protected. But then the killer names his next victim, and all of Tom's assurances fly out the window. For the name the killer mentions is none other than Tom's sister, Laurant. Any lingering doubts Tom may have about betraying the killer's confidence are eliminated when the killer taunts the police by sending them a taped copy of his confession.
Tom immediately puts in a call to his best friend, Nick Buchanan, who is part of an elite specialty group with the FBI that deals with crimes against children. The work has taken its toll on Nick, leaving him cynical, hardened, and emotionally withdrawn. Prepared to take a lengthy leave anyway, Nick immediately moves to Holy Oaks, where he and several other agents devise a plan. After announcing that Nick and Laurant are a couple and intend to marry, the twosome put on a very public display of affection while spreading stories about the impotence of the killer's threats.
Nick hopes their actions will trigger a rage in the killer that will make him lash out impulsively. He gets the response he wants, but the plan backfires because Nick and his cohorts have underestimated the desperation of this killer. Adding to the tension is the fact that Laurant and Nick are ill-prepared for the impact their little charade will have on their own emotions, as the lines between their game and reality start to blur beneath the weight of a very real passion.
Garwood has managed to craft a good mystery with plenty of red herrings. She plays fair with her clues but pulls a wonderful sleight of hand, burying them in plain sight amidst a cast of intriguing and entertaining characters, the sizzling passion between Nick and Laurant, and all the amusing quips and quirks of small-town life. This one should appeal to fans of romance and mystery alike. (Beth Amos)