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By David Skibbins

St. Martin's Minotaur ($6.99)
ISBN: 0-312-35225-5

Reviewed by Shirley H. Wetzel

Warren Ritter was a true-blue Boy Scout, joined the ROTC in college, and was on the fast track for Vietnam, on purpose, when his plans were suddenly derailed. He made a complete about-face and joined a radical group known for its sometimes violent tactics. Something bad happened, so bad that he had to go deep underground; thirty years later, he's still there, changing identities and locations almost as often as he changed his socks. Things finally seemed to have settled down, and Warren has made a good life for himself in Berkeley, living on his earnings as a tarot card reader and the dividends from a shrewd investment in Microsoft. He very much does not want to rock this boat, but when a client for whom he saw a bleak future is kidnapped and someone close to her is murdered, he becomes a person of interest to the cops and fears he may have to move on.

He gets another shock when his long-lost sister turns up and recognizes him. Actually, she thought he was the long-lost one, as his family had been led to believe he died in a bombing decades ago. Needless to say, she is surprised and not too pleased about his subterfuge. She reluctantly tells him a little about their family, and drops another bombshell on him concerning an old girlfriend. All his instincts tell him to take the money and run, as he always had, but other forces are urging him to stand and fight. His therapist says it's time to face his demons; his new girlfriend, a savy computer hacker who's helping him find the kidnap victim, wants him to take a chance on love, an emotion he'd believed he'd never feel again. He has a comfortable life in a place he loves, and friends he doesn't want to leave. And he can't forget the face of the teenage girl who came to him for help he didn't give her.

This time, he won't run. Using all the survival skills he's honed for thirty years, with help from some highly-skilled, albeit scary experts, he sets out to find Heather Wellington and clear himself of a murder charge. It's a heck of a wild ride, not for the faint-of-heart.

EIGHT OF SWORDS won the 2004 St. Martin's Press First Mystery contest, and deservedly so. The next book in the Tarot Cards Mystery series, HIGH PRIESTESS, has just been released and is already garnering high praise.

For those who might be wondering, there is a minimum of woo woo factor. Ritter uses the cards as a tool, a focus for his own intuition. If, sometimes, they do something inexplicable, like showing the same disturbing cards over and over, well, there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio.

And if you're up for a bit of fun, go to the author's website for a free tarot reading.

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