Running Scared, by Elizabeth Lowell

>> Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Running Scared is the second in Elizabeth Lowell's Rarities series and features characters who'd very much intrigued me in the first book, Moving Target.

In the scorching heat of the Southwestern desert, a frightened old man knows his time is quickly running out ... as the lethal secret he protects can be hidden no longer.

Risa Sheridan knows everything about gold -- its mysteries, its allure, its perils. Her boss, Shane Tannahill -- owner of the ultra-successful Las Vegas gambling mecca, the Golden Fleece -- is addicted to the stuff. Now an ancient Celtic piece is being offered to Shane for his collection, with the promise of more to come, and the casino owner is hooked. But though she shares Shane's enthusiasm, Risa is wary -- because something about this particular artifact is mysterious and troubling, something that says "stay away." It is a voice that should be heeded, because soon people are dying all around them. And whether it's an ancient curse that has taken hold of their lives or the simple, murderous greed of unscrupulous adversaries, there is suddenly no place in the surreal, blinding glitter of Vegas for Risa and Shane to hide...
I liked this one a bit less than Moving Target. The romance was up to par, but I'm afraid the suspense angle wasn't. A B-.

I first met Shane and Risa in MT and, even as not particularly important secondary characters, they generated a noticeable spark between them. That spark wasn't lost in this book. I really enjoyed the dynamics of their relationship. They start in a purely professional relationship, both wanting each other but playing by the rules and keeping their hands to themselves. But when things start getting dangerous, they get together and stay together from then on. There's pretty much no "this is just sex" games between them. From the beginning, they (and especially Shane) recognize that there is something more going on there, and not just the faint psychic perception they each have when it comes to gold.

This doesn't mean that they become two sweet little lovebirds. These two don't really banter, they clash, but in a way that was enjoyable, not tiresome. Both have extremely alpha personalities, so I didn't mind Shane's overbearing tendencies at all, because Risa was more than tough enough to handle him... and did.

However, as much as I liked Risa when she was with Shane, I couldn't stand her when it came to her old "friend" Cherelle, a small-time thief who's managed to get her hands on some very dangerous gold and has brought it (and a boat-load of trouble) to Risa. I just hated the way Risa allowed this woman to take advantage of her. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Plus, there's tolerand and grateful and there's completely blind. I could understand it if Risa had just allowed Cherelle to soak her, thinking it was the least that she owed the woman for what had happened when she was 15 and blah, blah, blah. Ok, that I would be able to understand, if not agree with. But to be so blind as to allow Cherelle access to the secure floors at the Golden Fleece? That is stupid.

My main problem with this book was related to this, actually. I did NOT like reading about such amoral human trash as Cherelle, Tim, Socks and that gaggle of crooked casino owners, and I got to spend quite a bit of time with them. At one point, it seemed like every other chapter was narrated from their point of view. And every single time I saw that the chapter I was going to read was one of those, I mentally groaned. Luckily, Lowell does very short chapters!

The stuff about gold, I loved. As always with Lowell, it runs perilously close to the line dividing well-integrated research and info-dump (and actually crosses it a few times), but I was so fascinated by the images of celtic gold that I didn't much care. Some of the objects Lowell describes sound so amazing that I wish they did exist, just so I could see images of them.

There's also quite a bit of Rarities Unlimited, which I also enjoyed, especially Dana and Niall and Lapstrake (who happens to be the protagonist of the next book in the series, Die In Plain Sight). I want more of them! Well, I'll probably get it in the next book!


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