Eagle's an expert at creating characters that seem ready to step off the page, a skill in evidence here. Yet despite the instant sympathy the reader has for Lauren and the story's touches of quirky humor, it fails to engage -- possibly because the pacing's off and the plot has a scattered feel.

Driving late at night, Nick Red Shield runs his truck into a ditch to avoid killing what he thinks is a deer. Instead, he finds an injured woman huddled in the bushes. Nick's sure he's responsible, but the woman calling herself Joey reassures him -- and her refusal to get medical attention lends credibility to her claim that she was thrown from a car.

Joey is actually well-known jockey Lauren Davis, once the lover of a criminal named Raymond Vargas.

Her life is still in danger because she's determined to reclaim the son she had with Vargas, but he wants to see her dead first.

(Dec., 320 pp., $24.95)

Reviewed by: 
Catherine Witmer