cover image WITH A VENGEANCE


Eileen Dreyer, . . St. Martin's, $24.95 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-312-26577-9

Fast plotting, thorough research and a swaggering-cop style elevate this sixth novel from Dreyer, known for Brain Dead (1997) and other standard medical/serial-killer thrillers. "SWATBabe" Maggie O'Brien is one tough broad. As a new tactical emergency medic for the city and county of St. Louis, Mo., trauma nurse at Blymore Memorial and part-time firefighter medic, she has to be. This single 26-year-old overachiever lives, loves and plays hard to release the pressure found in her work and in her stormy relationship with her abusive father, ex-cop Tommy "the Terminator" O'Brien. When one of her favorite mental patients, Montana Bob, a former top FBI agent, becomes a casualty in what should have been a fairly routine call, O'Brien finds her name on "The List" at Blymore—the hospital's wall where names of troublemakers are scrawled by medical personnel to relieve tension. Her gut instinct leads her to start investigating people on the list with a link to Montana Bob who have turned up dead, but no one wants to hear her suspicions, since they may implicate her own beloved colleagues. Soon O'Brien discovers she's being prepped as the "fall gal" when a series of inexplicable ER deaths appear to be caused by her. O'Brien makes a complex, conflicted heroine, defiantly macho and yet so scarred by family violence that she refuses to use a gun even when doing so could save the lives of those she loves. (Mar. 17)

Forecast:A 10-city author tour, plus blurbs from Nora Roberts, Tami Hoag, Robert Crais and Tess Gerritsen, should help lift Dreyer close to bestseller territory.