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Dead Even    by Mariah Stewart order for
Dead Even
by Mariah Stewart
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2004 (2004)
Paperback, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Rashmi Srinivas

It all began as a game to pass the time. Three prisoners each made a hit list of three people they most wanted dead. Then, inspired by Hollywood, each took three names from one of the others, to confuse the trail. One was released and took the bargain seriously enough to start killing in Dead Wrong. Of course, the second prisoner felt compelled to return the favor in Dead Certain. Now all that remains is for the third, Archer Lowell, to fulfill his part in this unholy bargain. Will he succeed?

FBI Special Agent Miranda Cahill has been on this case from the beginning. With some help, she has pieced together this twisted scenario as accurately as is possible without a shred of proof, and knows what Lowell is expected to do. What she doesn't know is who exactly is on his to-kill list. When Lowell gives the cops a slip, Miranda and fellow agent (also on-again-off-again lover) Will Fletcher engage in a desperate race against time to identify the intended victims before it's too late. Unbeknownst to them, Miranda is herself on the hit list.

Despite the author's crisp summaries, I recommend reading the series in order, to make sense of the sub-plots, relationships and resultant undercurrents. Dead Even continues from where Dead Certain left off and the suspense, tension and mystery are all bigger and somewhat better, than before. The race against time is nail-biting tense, and an ongoing sub-plot about rescuing a young girl from a cult adds to the excitement. Despite the identity of the killer being known, Stewart twists the plot constantly.

Mariah Stewart brings her Dead trilogy to a satisfying conclusion in Dead Even, which is well-plotted, imaginative and entertaining.

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