The Gauntlet Assassin - L.J. Sellers In this dystopian departure from her other novels, we find Lara, ex-cop and now paramedic, representing Oregon, off to compete in The Gauntlet, the winner of which will receive federal grants for her state. Just before her departure she had been called to an emergency shooting where she had seen a man running from the scene.

The federal government after decades of budget cuts, is a mere shell of its former self and gasoline having become so expensive people could no longer afford to fly thus closing many smaller regional airports. Homeless people abound. It’s a dreary place where Lara, ex-cop and now a paramedic operating independently ,skirts rules in order to help whenever she can. Called to the site of a shooting, she recognizes the victim as someone with power to make a difference in the outcome of The Gauntlet.

After a minor altercation with Kirsten, her roommate, whom she had just beaten in the first challenge of the competition, Lara finds herself being accused of Kirsten’s murder when Kirsten’s body is found in their apartment and Lara was the last person to see her alive. She is reluctant to reveal the presence of the blond-haired man who had been seen running from the attempted murder of an official in Oregon.

I like Sellers, but this was not one of her best. The subplot seems to be irrelevant and distracting until the connection is made. The constant invoking of the disastrous effects of government budget cuts on society’s ability to function came across as awkward and more of a political statement than an integral part of the story, and even though I am sympathetic to what she is saying, it jarred. The best part is after she has hooked up with the detective in charge of the case (talk about a conflict of interest) and they begin to begin investigating.

I’m never quite sure where the bar resides demarking the line between thriller and detective story. It seems to me that a thriller should have at least a soupcon or tingle of a thrill. This one doesn’t have it. Other reviewers have remarked on how suspenseful the book was. Really? Does anyone really believe that Lara won't win the Gauntlet, won't get the guy, and won't solve the crime? In how many books does the hero fail? So the test of a mystery/romance/thriller/police procedural has less to do with the outcome than how we get there. That's what I really liked about Sellers' The Sex Club

Regardless, it was a fun read, more than suitable for whittling away some time.