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"Good Guys Don't Always Wear White", "Brutal Pressure"

Is there a chance that the need to help others is actually a way in which the Samaritans can live with themselves? Price focuses on the personal gratification that plays a pivotal role in any good Samaritan act that people perform. In a sense this idea is a negative one, but Price's characters show that what beats at the heart of this notion of philanthropy is simply the reality of humanity.

Ray Mitchell is a successful TV screenwriter who's decided to come back to the New Jersey housing project where he grew up. Coming back to New Jersey gives Ray the opportunity to re-connect with his estranged daughter, but Ray soon sees other opportunities. For the first time he is financially able to give back to the community. Suddenly though, Ray is found brutally beaten and one-time friend from the projects, Detective Nerese Ammons, has to discover the perpetrator. Through the lives of these two characters the reader is shown how life is forged between the harsh world of drug addiction and poverty. "Samaritan" is as much social commentary as mystery, and Price spins a web that dissects the way people deal with one another as well as with themselves. "Samaritan" shows the strength and power of generosity as well as the danger to those who wield it.

— Francis W. Decker

Brutal Pressure

Stephen Horn is swiftly carving himself a successful second career out of his extensive legal experience. His second novel, "Law of Gravity" (HarperCollins, $24.95), proves it. As a federal prosecutor, Horn was involved in some of the Justice Department's best-known investigations, including Kent State and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. After leaving his government career for private practice, Horn first wrote "In Her Defense," a taut and intriguing political thriller that proved he knew how government really works and how far politicians will go to protect themselves. In "Law of Gravity," he demonstrates that his first novel wasn't merely a fluke: Horn knows exactly how to keep readers up long past bedtime.

The protagonist in his latest is Phillip Barkley, a disillusioned federal prosecutor who has been pushed aside by the Justice Department for blowing the whistle on a Capitol Hill scandal. He's also battling depression brought on by the death of his daughter and his subsequent divorce. When his boss assigns him to a missing-persons case, it doesn't take long for Barkley to realize the department is hoping he'll be malleable enough to go along with an explanation that won't cause waves. The missing person is an aide to a presidential candidate who is afraid the case might damage his chances in the upcoming election.

Barkley and the upwardly mobile FBI agent assigned to assist him start coming too close to the truth, however, and the pressure from above builds until Barkley is brutally trapped between what his investigation proves and what powerful forces want covered up. Complicating the search is the fact that Barkley's ex-wife is now married to the man who might be damaged most of all.

Horn's gripping narrative grabs the reader from Page 1 and never lets go. Surprises abound, hardly anybody is who he or she seems to be, and back-stabbing — both metaphorical and physical — make this thriller the definition of a page-turner.

— Don Dale

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