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Unlawful Contact    by Pamela Clare order for
Unlawful Contact
by Pamela Clare
Order:  USA  Can
Berkley, 2008 (2008)
Paperback, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

While still in their teens, Sophie Alton and Marc Hunter spent a single unforgettable night together. But both know that any sort of long-term relationship is out of the question. Desperate to create a better life for himself (and for the sister who's been lost to him in the red tape of foster care) Marc chooses the only option open to him - enlistment. Sophie too, realises there's no future with the town bad boy. Her grandmother would never allow it, nor is she willing to give up her dream of becoming an investigative journalist.

Twelve years pass and Sophie is just where she wants to be - part of a crack team of dedicated journalists. When she learns that the young woman on whom she'd based a series of hard-hitting articles has fled with her baby, Sophie sets out to track her down. But it's as if Megan has simply vanished. When Sophie receives a message from an inmate who claims to have information about Megan's whereabouts, she schedules an interview.

Marc Hunter has spent the past six years in maximum-security prison, doing his best to stay alive. As a former federal agent and a convicted cop killer, he knows it's only a matter of time before an attempt on his life proves successful. He's prepared himself for that eventuality. What he's not prepared for is to sit back and do nothing while his sister and niece are missing. He's certain that the men who repeatedly brutalized Megan during her stint in juvenile detention want to punish her for speaking out about it. Now Marc has no choice but to use the only person who's ever gotten close to Megan - Sophie Alton. He's never forgotten the shy girl he made love to under the stars and has made a point of following her career. Thoughts of her kept him alive - and sane - during his tour of duty in Afghanistan and during the darkest moments of his incarceration. But much as he loves Sophie, he's prepared to toss those poignant memories aside and use her as a pawn to gain his freedom and rescue his sister.

This is the third in Pamela Clare's gritty I-Team series (after Extreme Exposure and Hard Evidence) - each offers a hard-edged story that follows the exploits of a group of Denver based investigative journalists. Clare's own journalism background gives the stories a dash of realism - this one perhaps more so since, in researching her background, Clare spent some time locked in the women's unit of a county jail.

In Unlawful Contact, Clare deftly presents another headline grabbing plotline that takes a hard, believable and often disturbing look at corruption and abuse within various branches of the prison system. Along with a riveting plot, she offers multi-layered, strong characterizations - particularly in Marc and Sophie. Clare's portrayal of Marc is especially well done: he's a man who's gone from decorated soldier to hardened con, yet his honour and determination to do the right thing burn as bright as his love for Sophie. Unlawful Contact is a romantic suspense that has it all: gritty realism, edge-of-your-seat action, dynamic characterizations, surprising plot twists and a scorching romance between two leads you won't soon forget.

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