Michele Jaffe, Author . Ballantine $14.95 (464p) ISBN 978-0-345-45923-7

A consensual union between a lustful young lady and a nameless stud kicks off this clunky thriller by Jaffe (Bad Girl , etc.), in which a serial killer taunts the FBI with clues to his next murder. After the sweaty prelude, Imogen Page, an FBI special agent with a rare gift of synthesis—a mingling of the senses that renders her empathetic to the motivations of others, even criminals—is called to Las Vegas, where noted nuclear physicist Dr. Rosalind Carnow is missing from her hotel, presumably kidnapped. A collage rather than a ransom note tells authorities she's in the hands of the "Hide and Seek Killer," aka Loverboy: as usual, he gives them two and a half weeks to solve a dozen or more riddles and find the victim before he kills her. It's a game this wily, sadistic killer has won five times before. Imogen, though still grieving the sudden death of her beloved only brother, is persuaded to take the case. Her path immediately crosses that of charismatic multimillionaire automaker Benton Arbor, Carnow's longtime platonic best friend. Benton is determined to solve the case his way, and he and Imogen vie with each other for control, even as they fall for each other. Fast-paced action distracts the reader from stiff writing (" 'So you—the police—have nothing,' Benton summed up"), and the killer's identity, when finally revealed, defies credibility, leaving the reader with a bad case of morning-after malaise. Agent, Susan Ginsberg. (June 1)

Forecast: Loverboy will be sold shrink-wrapped back to back with Jaffe's previous thriller Bad Girl; the two books together are priced at $14.95. The rock-bottom offer might seduce readers, but the value-to-price ratio could be better.

Reviewed on: 05/03/2004
Release date: 06/01/2004
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