Cold Target
by Patricia Potter, contemporary (2004)
Berkley, $6.99, ISBN 0-425-19386-1


With the title like Cold Target, I half expect missiles to be involved somehow in this story. Instead, Patricia Potter offers a half-warmed soup of a tale filled with every tired "women with family issues in trouble" story clichés - so many clichés, in fact, that this story is a little too busy for its own good.

The story begins with Holly Matthews shooting dead a man that may be out to kill her. She takes her kid Mickey and flees to an artist's commune in Bisbee, Arizona. Soon, she will experience her own take on Mariah Carey's Butterfly music video - she will be riding on horses and going "Whee!" in a town filled with people that love her - "Spread your wings and prepare to fly, for you have become a butterfly!" Yeah, there's a new love and the predictable abusive-hubby blues to overcome.

That's just a subplot. Then we move on to the main plot. Meredith Rawson is charged by her mother to look for her sister that she doesn't know exists until now. Her lung cancer stricken mother slips into a coma soon after and her father is no help. She has the hots for Detective Gage Gaynor, whose latest case, a reopened murder case, involves her father. People want her dead, he has to protect her, she has to find her sister (gee, I wonder who that can be), yadda yadda yadda. Everything in this story is resolved in a neat and simple closure because the author ties everything and everybody in this story together in a tangle that strains my belief because this story relies too much on the coincidental way everyone is related to, connected to, or trying to harm the other person. The world can't be that small a place.

Gage is the standard wounded cop character with guilt baggages. Meredith is predictably suffering from self-esteem issues while trying desperately to make herself even more miserable. She seems to care more about making her mother happy in her quest to locate her sister - she doesn't seem to be doing this for her own reasons. Likewise, she just loves finding ways to blame herself for everything that goes wrong in this story. She has some reasons for be unhappy during the course of the story, but Meredith is already on a path of abject misery even before the story begins. She and Gage's "romance" is nothing more than some tepid "Hate! Lust!" thingie that heats up with the overused "kiss out of nowhere in the midst of an argument" scene that is followed by some cursory and tepid "romantic" scenes. The cold and robotic characters are hard to warm up to, and their equally robotic love story makes it even harder for me to care.

Along the way, there are some subplots that go really nowhere - Meredith's work at the abused women shelter and Gage's issues with his superiors (oh yes, he's a maverick cop type of guy) - and come off as some attempt on the author's part to boost her characters' personalities with the least effort possible.

The conclusion of the story and the predictable identity of the villain do nothing for me either. Call me cynical, but when America has weathered two Presidents whose skeletons in their closets have been laid open and scrutinized and debated over without these two goons coming off any worse, the villain in this book comes off as unnecessarily dramatic. He should have just hired some smart PR people to form a team and run for President in 2008 instead of going through the nonsense in this book.

All in all, this book is better off retitled Cold Turkey.

Rating: 57


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