cover image Now or Never

Now or Never

Elizabeth Adler. Delacorte Press, $22.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-385-31592-0

Things haven't been going well for 40-year-old Boston homicide detective Harry Jordan. The other cops call him ""Prof"" because of his Harvard law degree (though they seem more impressed with his football career at Michigan State), but neither his fancy education nor his fat trust fund has been a speck of help to him over the past year as he has labored to catch a serial killer. With the death of a third victim, a co-ed at Boston University, Harry decides to enlist the aid of investigative reporter Mallory ""Mal"" Malone, known to her fans as ""the TV detective."" Their partnership gets off to a prickly start, though Mal is charmed by Harry's malamute, Squeeze. But, before long, Mal and Harry are sparking instead of sparring, even as Mal dreads that Harry will unearth the demons from her own disturbed past. Adler supplies a predictably sordid serial-killer plot, including a simplistic scenario that roots the killer's need to savagely rape and kill women in his sexual abuse by his fat, repulsive mother. (The creep even raises his glass to his mother's photo: ""To the mother. Who made all this possible."") Soon, however, the murders recede to become mostly a grisly backdrop for romance. Although her principals (particularly Squeeze) are likable enough, Adler (The Secret of the Villa Mimosa) relies on cliches (the killer stares fixedly ""like a deer caught in the headlights"") and writes in stereotypes. She does well enough with romance. It's only when she endeavors to mix guns with her roses that she ends up firing blanks. (Mar.)