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On the Line: A Bill Smith/Lydia Chin Novel    by S. J. Rozan order for
On the Line
by S. J. Rozan
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The peripatetic action of S. J. Rozan's On the Line reminded me of the movie Cellular. It begins with a phone call to PI Bill Smith from his associate and lover Lydia Chin. When he asks her what's up she replies 'Nothing good', which is what ensues for some time.

Lydia has been kidnapped by an old enemy of Bill's, one he fails to identify at first. The kidnapper tells Bill to play his game, or Lydia will die - it will last twelve hours, win or lose. The first clues (odds and ends in a plastic bag) send Bill to the scene of a recent murder (of a young Asian hooker) and set him up as chief suspect.

The clock ticking, Bill can't afford to spend time in custody. He assaults two officers and escapes, only to fall into the hands of the victim's whoremonger and his men - they want to know why Bill killed her and whether he's working for their competition. Now he has the kidnapper, the cops, and pimp Lu and his henchmen (Ming and Strawman) after him.

Luckily Bill has allies too - Lydia's young hacker cousin Linus Wong; Linus's savvy friend Trella; Lydia's best friend, Detective Mary Kee, who risks her job by helping a murder suspect; Lydia herself, who drops clues into the conversation whenever her kidnapper allows her to speak on the phone; and eventually Lu and his gorillas.

The psycho kidnapper has set up each location that his clues point to, so that a young Chinese prostitute will die on Bill's arrival. His challenge becomes, not only to find where Lydia has been imprisoned but also to save these young women's lives. But is the nutcase working alone?

This is a fast moving, edge-of-your-seat thriller that will keep readers turning pages long into the night. Bill's interaction with his young helpers lightens the tension with humor and they give him a unique method of tracking down the bad guy. If you like an exciting read, don't miss J. Rozan's On the Line.

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