cover image Riptide


Catherine Coulter. Putnam, $23.95 (387pp) ISBN 978-0-399-14616-9

Trouble, in the form of psychopathic madmen, seems to follow political speechwriter Becca Matlock around like a personal storm cloud in bestselling historical romance (False Pretenses) and thriller (The Edge) author Coulter's newest suspense novel. When a stalker who calls himself Becca's ""boyfriend"" accuses her of sleeping with the governor and threatens to kill his perceived rival if she doesn't stop, Becca turns to New York's finest, but the cops repeatedly dismiss her. Worse, when the governor is shot, they assume she's responsible. With nowhere to turn, Becca retreats to coastal Riptide, Maine, a sleepy community that is also home to her college friend Tyler. But all is not peaceful there either. Tyler's wife apparently disappeared a while back, the locals think he killed her, and a skeleton falls out of the basement wall of Becca's rented house. Things get really out of hand when it looks as though Becca's problems can be traced to an axe-grinding former KGB agent. Although the book's setting shifts from New York City streets to rural New England, there is little atmospheric detail. The unsettling tone moves from NYPD Blue to Murder, She Wrote with creepy Cold War inflections. But convolution doesn't camouflage the fact that the heroine has more guts than brains, and the villains are ultimately silly rather than menacing. When Dillon and Sherlock Savich, FBI computer specialists from Coulter's The Maze, enter the plot, one gets the feeling that the gang's all here, but the hijinks remain untethered. Only diehard Coulter fans will want to tread water with this one. Doubleday Book Club main selection; 20-city author tour. (July)