cover image The Perfect Husband

The Perfect Husband

Lisa Gardner. Bantam Books, $7.99 (432pp) ISBN 978-0-553-57680-1

Lisa Baumgartner makes her debut as a writer of romantic suspense under the name of Lisa Gardner with this sexy and smooth-talking first. The villain, Jim Beckett, cuts off the fingers of his victims with a dull Swiss Army knife--before he bats their brains out with a Louisville slugger. His poor ex-wife, Tess, who helped to get him arrested, is on the run with her daughter because Jim has escaped from jail and vowed to cut the still-beating heart out of her chest. Tess offers retired mercenary and sometime drunk J.T. Dillon $100,000 if he will teach her how to defend herself. J.T., like the others of his ilk, has muscles of steel attached to viscera of mush. He takes up her cause and gives Tess her first orgasm--psycho-killers apparently are not good lovers. In what might be termed the new genre of ""grisly romance,"" Gardner delivers a streamlined bang-up addition to the oeuvre of Tami Hoag, Karen Robards, Elizabeth Powell and, these days, even Nora Roberts. (Dec.)