"Deadly Embrace," the latest offering from best-selling author Jackie Collins, starts with a bang.
As the story opens, Madison Castelli, one of the recurring heroines in Collins' novels, is taken hostage along with others in a Los Angeles restaurant by Uzi-wielding robbers.
For the 30-year-old magazine writer, whose glamorous life was chronicled in Collins' "L.A. Connections" and "Lethal Seduction," becoming a hostage is just one of a long string of traumas.
In "Lethal Seduction," she discovered that Stella, the wife of her father, Michael, wasn't her real mother, and that her biological mother was murdered. She also learned Michael wasn't the respectable businessman she thought he was, but a one-time hit man for the mob. Adding to those revelations was the discovery that her beloved father had another family in Las Vegas two children and a wife.
As if that wasn't enough, Stella and her lover were later shot to death execution style. Now, accused of murdering them, Michael is on the run from the authorities.
Did he really kill them?
And did he kill Madison's real mother, too?
Is he a cold-blooded sociopath?
Cutting back and forth between Madison's current hostage situation and Michael's life story, Collins answers these questions for Madison as well as the reader. In this sense, "Deadly Embrace" is both a prequel and sequel to "Lethal Seduction."
"Deadly Embrace" reveals Michael Castelli's birth in 1945 made the pages of a New York newspaper: "A baby boy was safely delivered by doctors on Saturday night after the mother of the infant, Anna Maria Castellino, was fatally shot earlier in the evening during a store robbery."
Bright, handsome and ambitious, Michael grows up with his widowed father and grandmother, who operate a neighborhood grocery store. When he is old enough, he hooks up with a powerful mobster, and seems to be well on his way to a successful, if criminal, life. However, personal disasters keep happening. It takes him a long time to figure out there's a pattern to those disasters and who is behind them.
Collins loves to write about Hollywood, Las Vegas and the Mafia because, as she says on her publisher's Web site, she has "always been intrigued by the combination of glamour and violence."
"Deadly Embrace" has plenty of both as well as such typical Collins ingredients as sex, suspense, revenge, passion, intrigue and deception, which, combined ingeniously, make her an enormously popular entertainment novelist who has sold more than 300 million copies in more than 40 countries.