The Cardinal Rule by Cate Dermody

I feel a little guilty putting up a review of The Cardinal Rule because it is a Silhouette Bombshell that was published in December of 2005, so it’s not that easy to get a hold of.  I, myself, went through some trouble to collect this and the two sequels, but I’ve read pretty much all of C.E. Murphy’s writing (Cate Dermody is a pseudonym) and she hasn’t let me down yet.

First of all, let me state that I’d forgotten the style of a Bombshell, or this is a non-traditional one.  When I was looking at my available books, I hesitated, then reached past a Suzanne Brockmann because I felt like something just a little lighter.  For those who haven’t read my earlier reviews, Brockmann writes military adventures with a touch of romance.  Little did I remember that Bombshell is along almost the same lines.

The Cardinal Rule is a spy thriller with a character who stands exactly opposite the lead of Urban Shaman, showing C.E. Murphy’s range.  Alisha is a CIA agent with relationship issues and a weakness in that she refuses to compartmentalize her emotions, but ultimately she’s a master at her job.  On the page, she manages feats of both sneakiness and sheer athleticism that are stunning and amazing.  She carries them off with the use of Bond-style accessories and a lifetime of practicing yoga.  The description is clean and plausible, for all that I would certainly be unable to duplicate a fraction of what Alisha manages.

The novel, clearly the beginning of a tied series rather than one that stands on its own, introduces a mix of people with unclear goals and loyalties all dancing around a conspiracy more tangled than Alisha can grasp.  While Murphy doesn’t leave you hanging– The Cardinal Rule ends with a solid resolution to the main plot–Alisha is left without the answers she desperately needs to determine just who has been playing her and which of her associates are on the level.

Adventure, action, cool gadgets, and a complex, layered plot make me hope Murphy and/or Silhouette chooses to bring these novels back into the light (as eBooks perhaps?) so others can enjoy Alisha’s quandaries as much as I have.

Edited to add: And as though they heard me, look what is now available as eBooks?

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