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By Ridley Pearson

Hyperion, April 2005 ($23.95)
ISBN: 0-7868-6726-4

Reviewed by Shirley H. Wetzel

Six years ago Roland Larson and Hope Stevens fell in love.Not too remarkable, except that Roland was the witness protection agent assigned to keep Hope, a witness against the Romero crime family, safe while her new identity was being forged, and this was a major no-no in the program.After forty-one days of hop-scotching across the country, barely a step ahead of a vicious, throat-slashing assassin, Hope begins to fear that the government can't keep her safe, and she asks Roland to "cut and run" with her.In the time it takes him to think it over, she disappears.

Larson has been transferred to St. Louis and reassigned, with colleagues Hampton and Stubblefield, to the Marshals Service's Fugitive Apprehension Task Force.He has never stopped looking for Hope, searching for her at Shakespeare festivals and performances around the country. On the brink of giving up, he hears her distinctive laugh one night in a crowded theater, but before he can track her down he's called into duty by two deputy marshals who give him the message that "we've lost Uncle Leo."

Dr. Leopold Markowitz wrote the code for Laena, the list of several thousand protected witnesses and their families, and is one of the few who could decrypt it.In the wrong hands this information would put all those lives in jeopardy, and it soon seems evident that the professor is in the very wrong hands of the Romero family. Larson must find him before the list is decrypted and the names sold off to the highest bidder. One name on the list is especially important to the Romeros and to Roland, that of Hope Stevens.Larson sets off to find the missing scientist and the woman he loves.Close behind him, and all too often ahead of him, Paolo, the Romeros' hired killer, slashes his way through those closest to Hope.Along the way he kidnaps her five-year-old daughter, who proves to be as tough and resourceful as her mother.Hope and Larson are reunited, and in a race against time they set out across the country to rescue little Penny and stop the bad guys from carrying out their nefarious plan.Lots of nail-biting suspense and edge-of-the-seat action. This is one of Pearson's best.

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