Just because Meg Gillis quit the LAPD after her off-duty husband Charlie was killed doesn’t mean she’s turned into one of those sniveling cop’s widows. She and her partner Mike Johnson, another ex-cop, sell security systems, but “I can take out most men in close-quarter combat because I don’t maybe care about fair.” One day she intercepts a call for Mike saying that Mr. Haroutunian’s son has been kidnaped, and from then on, she does nothing but tangle with men—not in nice clean close-quarter combat, but in endless mind games. When it turns out that Mr. Haroutunian’s son hasn’t been kidnaped, Sgt. Joe Reilly, of the Beverly Hills Special Tactics Unit, gets very interested in whether Gillis’s call to his desk was part of a recent pattern of harassment of Iranians, what Meg knows about Mike’s sudden unexplained absence from his home and office, and why her bloodstained Subaru has turned up in Point Fermin. Gillis in turn wants to know why Reilly is having her followed, whether he’s plotting with the Burbank PD and the DEA, and why, if he knew Charlie as well as he claimed, none of Charlie’s friends has ever heard of him. Though there’s no hand-to-hand combat till close to the end, the atmosphere is heavy with testosterone, the tension stretched out as taut as a tightrope. As much attitude as Philip Marlowe, with a one-note intensity that lasts right through the anticlimactic denouement. Warts and all, this is a debut to remember.