cover image The Maze

The Maze

Catherine Coulter. Putnam, $19.95 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-399-14264-2

The strengths Coulter evidenced in her bestselling paperback, The Cove, are also showcased in this new romantic suspense novel. San Franciscan Lacey Sherlock was just a teenager, dreaming of studying piano at Berkeley, when her older sister's life was brutally ended by the serial murderer that the media dubbed the String Killer. Now, seven years and one brief mental breakdown later, her career plans have changed. Having completed FBI training and learned to be addressed by her surname, she's assigned to agent Dillon Savich's Criminal Apprehension Unit, which, utilizing Dillon's specialized computer program for profiling, is responsible for pursuing serial killers. This places the obsessed Sherlock exactly where she wants to be when the String Killer strikes again, this time in Boston. It also puts her in position to become romantically involved with her attractive superior. Coulter renders computer technology clearly and even interestingly, makes the Quantico training scenes absorbing and keeps the action moving fast. When Sherlock and Dillon apprehend the String Killer, they begin to doubt whether he really murdered Sherlock's sister, and though it's pretty easy to guess who the real villain will be, a lot of action occurs while Sherlock figures it out. Given Sherlock's vengeful mindset regarding the death penalty, the quality of mercy is definitely strained here. There are too many jokes concerning her surname; and Coulter's overuse of the adjective ""plummy"" to describe Dillon's voice can get on one's nerves. Otherwise, however, the book is gripping enough to establish Coulter firmly in this genre, even while she continues to attract a loyal following for her paperback historical romances. Major ad/promo; Doubleday Direct selection; author tour. (July)