A California businesswoman trains to be a tough, capable bodyguard in Quigley’s (Armed & Female, 2010, etc.) action thriller.
Thirty-two-year-old Justine Baron becomes a multimillionaire after selling her cosmetics company. Unfortunately, her wealth also makes her a target—even in her Palo Alto home, where a home invader attacks her and her photographer boyfriend, Scott Reddington. Justine manages to call the police, but the assailant gets away. At the scene of the crime, Detective Lily Marshall suggests that Justine might have fared better if she’d had a gun in her house. Later, Justine allows Lily to teach her how to use a firearm. The detective then sends her student to her own teacher—an enigmatic, highly secretive man named Don, who used to work for a special ops unit and the CIA. Don agrees to train Justine, but in return, she’ll have to do three months of work as a bodyguard to his clients. Later, Justine’s first assignment is to protect movie star Alyssa Stewart. Meanwhile, Justine’s adoptive mother, Lise Baron, a fashion industry mogul, is determined to find the person who broke into Justine’s home. She enlists the help of Eniko and Iya, two Ukrainians who once worked for the Russian FSB agency, and who now work as dominatrices. At the same time, Justine’s best friend, award-winning costume designer Danisha Howard, is increasingly suspicious of her fiance, Alessandro Stellini, a Hollywood producer. Danisha and her hacker pal, Ajit Pandeek, investigate Alessandro and uncover some shady connections. Later, Justine, Don, Eniko, and Iya team up against dangerous criminal types.
Quigley manages to pack an impressive amount of material into this novel, including intriguing, detailed backstories for multiple female characters. Although Justine is the clear protagonist, there are instances when other players steal the spotlight from her. Eniko and Iya’s traumatic, shared past is decidedly more harrowing than Justine’s home invasion, and Danisha’s present-day fear of her fiance’s illicit deeds effectively ratchets up the suspense. This refreshing story also offers intriguing contrasts; for example, the dominatrices’ desire to kill the home invader is set against Justine’s obvious reluctance to do so. Although Justine’s training is, perhaps, a little too quick to be believable—she’s field-ready in just a couple of months—it does keep the story’s pace brisk. The action scenes are truly exceptional; at one point, for instance, Justine deftly blocks an irate actress’s “outstretched claws, then foot-swept her to the ground, rolled her over, and took a large zip tie from inside her belt.” Quigley adds moments of subtle mystery, as when one of Justine’s allies is introduced as a disembodied voice over communication devices. There are moments of erotica, as well, as when Don gives Justine orgasm-inducing tantric massages. Although Justine unquestionably loves Scott, the author leaves the door open to address her romantic dilemma in a potential sequel. Some readers may be shocked by the narrative’s explicit sexual elements, but the violence is relatively muted by genre standards.
A swift, entertaining tale with plenty of series potential.