Meg Gillis
Created by C.J. Songer

Although I thought the end was a little too rushed and maybe a trifle too cute for my tastes, I really enjoyed reading C.J. Songer's Bait (1998), particularly the stream-of-paranoia tone of the narrator, MEG GILLIS. She's an ex-policewoman who's had plenty of bumps and bruises along the way (her husband, also a cop, was murdered a few years ago), and now finds herself working for a small security firm in Los Angeles with another ex-cop. There's a great balance between toughness and sensitivity here, a believably hard-boiled femaleness that is too rarely captured in print, as she tries to figure out what the hell happened to her missing partner Mike Johnson, and to discover the identity of whoever it is who's trying to set her up for a possible murder rap.

The action in Bait is almost all interior, this brittle ex-cop playing some sort of psychological mind games with the cop investigating her partner's disappearance, but there's something about the tone that's absolutely captivating. Okay, maybe Songer ratchets up the suspense one or two times too many, but ultimately this is simply a modern classic. And with Meg, she's created a great new voice in detective fiction, hard-boiled and aware, and definitely a little sexy. Meg doesn't pretend to be a man, but she doesn't turn all girly and simpering, either. I mean, as a cop, she worked vice, often undercover, so she's no pushover. The kickass blend of bravado and vulnerability is refreshing -- just a tough woman trying to stand her ground, and knowing, ultimately, that toughness alone won't get her out of it.

Author CJ Songer, who has apparently never been photographed without a gun, was a civilian employee of the Glendale, California police department, and an expert marksman. She has shot at competitive tactical matches, trained with Navy SEALS and taken courses at such prestigious places as Arizona's Gunsite, Thunder Ranch in Texas and Frontsight in California. She currently lives in southern California with her husband, children and the government issue colt 1911 she poses with on the front cover of the first edition of Bait.

I've heard plenty of good things, as well, about the sequel, Hook. I'm looking forward to reading it.



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