For a woman who’s slinky enough to slither into a sheath dress and masquerade as a call girl in order to serve Sylvia de la Pe§a’s wife-beating husband with divorce papers as he sits in a Beverly Hills restaurant, Mary Margaret Gillis spends an awful lot of time proving her manhood. “You think I can’t do it?,” she challenges her home-security partner, Mike Johnson, just before she adjourns to apply mascara and compare herself to John Wayne. And as it turns out, the service is no challenge at all. Sure, Rudolfo de la Pe§a makes Meg in a second, but he nonchalantly tucks the papers into his pocket and offers to buy her dinner. What a shame that such an Argentine grandee, abusive or not, is found dead overnight, an obvious suicide (his prints on his gun), and what a shame that his death only doubles the danger Meg sensed the minute he greeted her by name. Suddenly she’s being followed by somebody who’s threatening to cut her; the police on the case, along with Meg’s lover, Sgt. Joe Reilly, are picking up indications that Rudolfo de la Pe§a may not be dead after all; and Meg, winded from fleeing her aspiring killers, is pausing just long enough to realize she’s stumbled onto something a lot bigger and bloodier than a troubled marriage. Fans hooked by Meg’s heady debut (Bait, 1998) will find her just as swaggering as ever, even in full flight, and just as determined to confound the genre’s gender roles by being the manliest little shamus in Southern Cal.