Sunday, January 09, 2011

Catch Her If You Can - Merline Lovelace

Catch Her If You Can
A Samantha Spade Mystery
Merline Lovelace
Berkley Prime Crime


“I was at Pancho’s bar/café/motel/convenience store when I lifted the lid on a dented beer cooler and discovered three severed heads.”

If that first line doesn’t pull you right in, I have no idea what will. Samantha (Sam) Spade is a second lieutenant in the Air Force, stationed in El Paso, TX. Her team tests inventions that don’t make it through the big-league finance track: stuff submitted by retired professors and garage tinkerers. At the moment, they’re testing a robot that can self-fuel by using whatever organic matter it happens to find. Due to a slight operator error, the robot is currently configured to find *any* organic matter, including lovely stuff like dead animals. That’s why it zeros in on a pickup truck with a beer cooler in the back. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Of course, the press instantly jumps on the story. Even in an out-of-the-way spot like their desert testing grounds, this is big news. And, of course, there are various reactions, from enthused to outraged. The owner of the pickup is outraged. He pulls a gun, and ends up on the wrong end of Pancho’s shotgun. Thing is, there’s a reward for the pickup driver, and Sam may be in line to collect part of it. Once that hits the news, everyone she’s ever heard of, including her slimy ex-husband, comes out of the woodwork looking for a ‘loan.’

Sam’s relatives aren’t the only ones watching the news. Someone with an axe to grind was watching, too, and tries to kidnap Sam and her ex (or possibly just her ex, if it’s the scary guys he owes money to) right outside her apartment. Sam’s fairly sure it’s all about her ex’s debts, until she ends up kidnapped. If only the reward money could get her out of this.

This installment of the series (ALL THE WRONG MOVES, NOW YOU SEE HER) is more of a thriller than a straight-up mystery. The identities of the pickup owner and the owners of the severed heads are revealed fairly early on, as is the motive for their murders. The rest of the novel involves Sam allowing herself to be shamelessly manipulated by her ex-husband, and then getting kidnapped. The kidnapping is really the heart of the story, and I wish the book would have focused a lot more on that and less on the wacky ex hijinks. The writing is solid, though, and the pace is fairly quick. Not the best of the series so far, but still a solidly entertaining read.

Rating: 7
January 2011
ISBN# 978-0-425-23925-4 (paperback)


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