Whistleblower, which, like Never Say Die, was originally published in 1992. Talk about a study in contrasts. I was riveted by and immensely enjoyed Never Say Die (HI #181). In comparison, Whistleblower (HI #195) is the clunkiest of clunkers. It's hard to believe that the two stories were written by the same author and published in the same year. All I can say is I'm glad I read Never Say Die first, otherwise I'd currently being weeding out the remainder of Gerritsen's early Harlequin work from my TBR.
It's a dark and stormy night in northern California and Cathy Weaver is on her way to visit her 5-months pregnant BFF. Visibility is nearly non-existent and she's just trying to keep the car on the road when BAM! Out runs a man from the woods, into the path of her oncoming car. She hits him. What follows is a struggle to get the injured man into her car and to the nearest hospital.
Victor Holland is a scientist who works for a biotech firm. Before a colleague/friend was killed, the man passed classified company documents off to Victor. Turns out the company is making a biological weapon at the behest of shadowy figures in the US government. The Bad Men have found out Victor has this information and they run him off the road on his way to meet with an FBI agent. Now Victor is on the run and has no idea who he can trust. Cathy, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and acting good Samaritan, has now put her directly in danger.
Oh, where to start. I'm a fairly hardcore reader when it comes to suspense storylines, but even I was shocked by Gerritsen's authorial choice to have Cathy's pregnant BFF murdered by one of the Bad Men extremely early on. I just....wow. I can't believe an editor let that one fly back in 1992, even if it was the Intrigue line. Then there's the problem that because this is an Intrigue (short word count yo), there's not nearly enough time spent on Cathy's disbelief. I mean, this was 1992. A hero runs into the path of your car and starts talking conspiracy and government cover up and biological weapons and there's minimal thought on her part that "Ohhhhkay, this guy is a crazy person." Of course Cathy being in immediate danger makes this lack of disbelief slightly more plausible, but not by much.
And that's ultimately my issue with this story. I don't expect extreme plausibility in my romantic suspense, but this one is all over the place. One moment the characters are acting like "regular people" caught up in "extraordinary circumstances" and the next? They're coming up with a plan of action like they're some elite group of Special Ops soldiers or extras on an episode of Mission: Impossible. It's that final plan of action to lead readers to the climactic finish that strain the seams considerably - complete with tranquilizer darts, movie make-up artistry (Cathy is a make-up artist), and the heroine driving a getaway vehicle through an electrified fence to rescue the hero who is being chased by police dogs.
Not helping matters was the romance which was rushed and equally implausible. The characters start developing the hots for each other right away, never mind that Bad Men are chasing after them. I don't know, if someone was trying to kill me I don't think I'd be wrestling with my new found feelings of love and getting jealous over the hero's Perfect Dead First Wife. But that's just me. Gerritsen does wisely hold off the sex scene until later in the story, but the kisses and the heroine's fretting over the fact that the hero is "still in love" with his Perfect Dead First Wife? While there's government goons chasing after them trying to kill them? Yeah, it didn't work. At all.
Friends of Victor's eventually come on to the page to help the couple, and there's a bunch of cutesy crap like their nickname for Victor (Gersh - after George Gershwin) and the fact that they were a bunch of college nerds who played in a band called "The Out of Tuners." This just adds more fuel to the fire for Cathy, whose fretting over Victor still being in love with Perfect Dead First Wife kicks into overdrive. But never fear! Just to reassure readers that Victor couldn't possibly love anyone more than the heroine, Perfect Dead First Wife gets thrown under a bus and Victor declares that making love to Cathy was like his "first time."
Gag me with a spoon.
So, yeah. If you're interested in reading Gerritsen's backlist, the books she wrote before she became a Big Deal - do yourself a favor and skip this one. It's no bueno.
Final Grade = D