Elizabeth Lowell, Author . Morrow $24.95 (400p) ISBN 978-0-06-050413-7

The theft of seven extraordinary sapphires sparks a rash of murders in this fast-moving romantic thriller by Lowell (Die in Plain Sight ; Running Scared ). Kate Chandler, 33, is the cutter who shapes the stones for a wealthy Florida collector; her half-brother, Lee, is the courier she chooses to deliver them. Lee is more than careful, but an hour from his destination, the gems are stolen, and he disappears. Five months later, alleging that Lee stole the gems and decamped with a blonde to a Caribbean hideaway, the FBI closes the case. Kate and Lee's lover, Norm, know better, and Kate determines to discover the truth on her own. At a gem show in Scottsdale, she sees one of the precious sapphires at a shady dealer's booth and settles "into the odious business of flirting with a man she'd rather have scraped off her shoes," which leads to a confrontation with maverick FBI agent Sam Groves. In due course, they become allies and consequently, Groves, already unpopular with Bureau brass, finds his job at stake. The reader acquires a lot of esoteric information about gems, the principals share a sense of humor and eventually a bed; when the shady dealer and his wife are mercilessly murdered, Kate receives a death threat and the circle of suspects connected to her brother's disappearance widens. This is a diverting read for thriller fans. Agent, Dominick Abel. (June 15)

Reviewed on: 05/24/2004
Release date: 06/01/2004
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