Paloma, a woman with three identities, is running hard and fast. Someone wants her dead. But which identity is the killer after? Max Laurent, retired FBI agent, throws himself into the mix. Before coming to terms with past misunderstandings and a child long ago abandoned, they must, together or apart, find and eliminate the killer.
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Linda A Lavid
Tangled up in sheets after another restless night, Max Laurent rolled onto his back and opened his eyes. Sketchy morning light cracked through the slits of the permanently drawn blinds. He glanced at the numbers on his clock radio, 6:20, and groaned. Another day, another god-awful hour.
For months Max had tried sleeping in, going to bed later and later, but to no avail. Now he had to face the truth, he was either a morning person or mentally impaired. How else could he explain waking up for no good reason before the Today Show even started?
Max stretched his long, rangy body. Gnawing aches racked through his back and hips. Arthritis was clearly settling in, hosting itself in every joint. He was already up to one bottle of aspirin a week, self-prescribed of course. He felt the same way about doctors as he did about lawyers, terrorists and murderers; hoaxsters, every last one of them. And now there was something new to consider. A knifelike pain pulsated inside his head; an aneurysm ready to blow, he imagined, or a brain tumor. He looked at the ceiling light and closed alternating eyes to check for double vision. Nothing. He sniffed, getting a whiff of himself. Lingering remnants from another night of Hennessy and Cuban cigars made him stink like a rhino’s ass. Christ, this retirement thing was killing him.
Max had left the FBI five months earlier after thirty-two years of service, informing his few friends and only cousin that an early incentive package had been offered. He had failed to mention how he had been strongly urged to pack up and buy his Danish closer to home.
It had been a matter of protocol, ass-backward protocol – supercilious court orders, tiresome subpoenas that took up valuable time. Hell, he had gotten the job done, but that’s not what the big Dick had wanted to hear, citing ad nauseam the Manual of Operations and Procedures. As Max saw it, the MOP was nothing more than a wish list of technicalities for three-martini, snake-eyed lawyers who made their chump change protecting the guilty, while leaving the victims hung out to dry. Sure, he had sidestepped the regs, but only for the greater good. Any hairy-assed goon could have seen that.
He scratched his head and thought about going back to sleep. But now he was fully awake and pissed. Besides, he hated lying in jumbled sheets. He’d have to get up and remake the bed, put everything back in order.
Max rubbed his eyes. His thoughts continued to percolate. Wednesday, he now remembered, was golf day with Reggie.
Jeez, he hated the sport. Sure, he looked forward to being out in the morning, walking the greens, bullshitting with his cousin, but by the tenth hole he was ready to call it a day, and by the eighteenth, if he wasn’t drinking, a mild psychosis would settle in. It always boiled down to that one damn, pockmarked, poor excuse of a ball that wasn’t properly balanced at the factory. In any event, as despicable as golf was, Reggie was family and Max believed in family.
Max dragged himself out of bed, showered, shaved, made coffee, and at seven-forty, the doorbell rang. His bones cracked as he hauled himself out of his chair and lumbered to the door. The moment Reggie appeared in full view, Max shook his head. "You got to be kidding."
Reggie beamed, his golf cleats clacked as he marched into Max’s house in complete regalia: plaid knickers, a canary yellow shirt, matching golf hat, and blinding-white socks. He spun around. "So what do you think?"
"You can’t be serious."
Reggie was unflappable. "Here’s your Times." He slapped it on the coffee table. "I don’t know why you bother with an out-of-town paper."
Max said dryly, "We all got our quirks."
"There was a sale at the Pro."
Ever since they were kids, Reggie had dressed the part, but this time he overstepped.
"I thought we agreed on the Greg Norman look," Max told him. Reggie planted his feet, settled into a stance, and air-stroked a putt. "Bor-ring."
"Well, there’s no way – "
"Cool down, Max. I got your hat. It’s in the car."
"Hey, I’m not the one sweatin’. Twenty minutes on the links and they’ll be using you to water – "
"Speaking of water, can I use the facilities?"
"Go ahead." Max picked up the newspaper. "Want some coffee?"
"Sure, half a cup," Reggie yelled.
Max walked back to the kitchen, poured two more cups and turned off the pot. He then crumpled his six-foot three-inch frame onto an old metal folding chair left over from Monday night’s poker game. Spreading out the paper, he cruised the headlines.
A picture of a burned-out apartment on MacDougall Street in lower Manhattan immediately caught his attention. The shot was taken from street level; not directly dead-on, but off to the side so you could see some length of the building, clearly a corner lot. A bay window was nothing more than gaping black holes. Jagged metal casings twisted and dangled from the opening.
Max scanned the center of the article. Phrases registered in his line of vision: fire bomb, late evening. He slowed down and began reading each word: An unidentified woman was taken to St. Vincent’s Hospital, where she later died.
He looked again at the photograph. His stomach churned. It couldn’t possibly be. He searched the story for an address.
Reggie was back. "I only wanted half a cup."
"Damn fool," Max said.
"No problem," Reggie responded, "I’ll drink it."
Max glanced at him. "I didn’t mean you. I meant the idiot who wrote this." He grabbed the wall phone and called information. "I need the number for the New York Times," he told the operator. He then pressed one to automatically redial. A computerized menu of hypothetical ‘if’s and then’s’ answered. He slammed the receiver down and stood up. "Look at this picture. Concentrate on the building details."
Max went into the living room closet and pulled out an accordion file. His fingers flew through the dividers, cities where she had lived: Buffalo, Chicago. He stopped at New York and considered the dated sub-files. He dug his huge hand into the tightly folded cardboard and fished out some glossy five by sevens from twelve years earlier.
There weren’t that many. Still the few he’d had unleashed memories of those dog days. New York was never the place to be when the humidity climbed over seventy. Too many people, too much concrete, no place to breathe.
He found the photograph.
Her hair looked wet, blacker than usual and slicked back as if she had just come out of the shower. A long, light-blue dress, sleeveless, revealed the soft curve of her tanned shoulders. A slight summer breeze rustled the fabric and outlined her slim silhouette. She carried a large leather bag. The picture caught her going down the front steps, holding on to the railing, her oval face turned downward, looking where she walked. What he saw of the building was confined to the stairs, railing, porch floor and the bottom six inches of the doorway.
Max slipped the remainder of the pictures back into their sleeve and gingerly rose from one knee. Returning to the kitchen, Max lay the photograph next to the newspaper article. The two pictures appeared to have nothing in common. The grainy, black and white newspaper shot contrasted dramatically with the vibrant portrait of a woman.
Max turned to Reggie. "Do you think the buildings in both backgrounds are the same?"
Reggie put on his glasses and leaned forward. After a few seconds, he frowned. "Max, this isn’t who I think it is?"
"What do you mean?"
"You know what I mean. That woman, the one you stalked."
"Followed obsessively. Does that sound better?"
Max didn’t need to hear this. He reached over to swipe away the picture, but Reggie caught his wrist. "Let me take a look anyway."
Max withdrew his arm and stared down at the picture.
Throughout the years, she hadn’t changed, or at least he hadn’t noticed. He now remembered that day. After he took the picture, he shadowed her to the library, then to a small outdoor market. He recalled how her hips swayed beneath that summery dress and how she stood so straight and still at the stop lights. Reggie’s eyes darted between the two pictures. Max could count on Reggie. He was a detail person, an accountant. Decimal points, commas were his specialty.
"See here," Reggie said pointing to a corner of the stair.
Max narrowed his gaze.
"The masonry has a hole in it. Now when you look at the color shot, you notice a smaller hole with cracks. Could be with time the concrete deteriorated. And here, near the doorway, the bricks have the same design."
Max jumped for the phone and dialed information again only this time for the New York City Fire Department. After several holds and transfers, a man answered at the fire house, "Lieutenant Becker."
"Lieutenant, this is Laurent, FBI. You had a fire in your sector yesterday, a fire bomb on MacDougall."
"We need to know the address."
The man snarled, "Corner of St. John’s," then hung up.
Max replaced the receiver. "I’ve got to go to New York," he told his cousin.
"It’s her place? Her apartment?"
Max stared off. After all she had been through, she died in a fire? But if was her apartment, how could she not be identified? Agnes had disappeared many times over the years but leaving a body behind was never her style. He couldn’t fathom her dead. That wasn’t part of his plan.
Max promised Reggie a golf date the minute he got back. He then packed his dark blue suit for a funeral; his sneakers for a chase.
Paloma Dove is a woman with a past. With three identities and a young daughter, Paloma's life could hardly be uncomplicated. When she finds that's she's being trailed by an assassin, as well as a former lover, Paloma must discover just which of her "identities" the hired killer is trailing. And, is Max Laurent, Paloma's former beau and a retired FBI agent working with the assassin--or against him? Just who is chasing whom--and will Paloma find out in time to protect herself and her daugther, Maggie?
Emotional and completely enthralling, PALOMA is a rollercoaster ride of intrigue and deception. Paloma and Max are complex characters that compel the reader's interest and lure you further and further into the web of this story. Each paragraph leads the reader deeper into Paloma's dark and dangerous world. Not your average thriller, PALOMA offers lush dialogue, bittersweet romance, and a heroine that never quits. The ending is unexpected, but completely fulfilling. Overall, PALOMA is a great read--a step above your average thriller--and sure to capture the imagination. Move over Tom Clancy and Robert Ludlom! Great work, Ms. Lavid.
Road to Romance
Three identities, Paloma Dove, Agnes Lopez, Nancy Smith, one woman. Which one is a killer after?
Paloma Dove was on the run again. Through a series of phone calls, she has learned a dear friend of hers has died in an explosion, in Paloma’s apartment. She knows she was the one who was supposed to die not her friend. Who was after her? Why were they trying to kill her? Did it have something to do with the murder case she was a witness to many years ago?
Paloma knew she was taking chances when she would go see her daughter, without her daughter seeing her, but she had to. She faked her own death, to keep her child safe. Also, someone from her past, has been staking her, Max Laurent. She needs to keep one step ahead of the killer and now one step ahead of Max.
Mad Laurent, a retired FBI agent also learns of the explosion at Agnes’--as he knows her--apartment, he needs to know if it is her in the morgue. When he discovers it is someone else, he is both glad and sad. Glad it wasn’t her, sad because an innocent person was killed. He needs to find her before the killer does, which proves more difficult than he realizes, Agnes is a smart woman.
Max and Agnes have a shared past, they were once lovers. There are also have misunderstandings between them. They also wind up arguing every time they met up. After Agnes testified at a well-known murder trial, where she was a major witness, Agnes had to go into the witness protection program for her safety. When Max learns of Nancy Smith’s drowning, he knows Agnes is on the run again.
Will Max and Agnes outsmart the killer before he strikes again? Will they be able to talk things out and maybe have a future together? Will Agnes ever be able to be with her daughter again?
This was a heart-stopping, blood pressure rising book. The reader never knew what Paloma was going to pull out of her purse of tricks. Max had his own tricks as well. Max just wanted to protect Paloma from any harm. If you enjoy mystery, intrigue with romance thrown in, this book would fit the bill.
Reviewed by Patsy Glans for The Road to Romance
February 9, 2006
In Paloma, Linda A. Lavid has created a story that is as much about the relationship between two people as it is about the plot to kill one of them. After many years watching Paloma Dove from a distance, Max Laurent comes back into her life after news leads him to believe that she is dead. The actual plot against Paloma serves as backdrop for the first half of the story, then comes to the fore again as they trace down the people who want her dead.
There is not a large cast of characters in the book, and the narrative is split between Paloma's and Max's point of view. Paloma is working under her third identity, having gone into protective custody once and then fleeing that life to take up a new one. She also strongly resents Laurent for the roles he has and has not played in her life. Laurent still feels strongly about her and wants to make up for past mistakes. The changes in their relationship keep things moving at times and are the heart of the story.
The fact that the story switches back and forth between Laurent's and Paloma's viewpoints is what allows the plot against Paloma to fade into the background. They are both very focused individuals driven as much by their shared past as the present situation they are in. Most of the secrets that are revealed involve these two and their relationships with each other and others. But when the various secrets of the book come out they are more of an unveiling than a surprise.
Paloma is a pleasant book to read. There is enough mystery and intrigue to keep you interested in the plot, while the characters continue trying to find the answers they need. The storyline is fairly basic and will not leave you needing to keep track of multiple threads for any length of time.
It may be a lazy-day read, but those can be quite fun at times -- and this one is.
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