July 08, 1996 12:00 PM

by John Ramsey Miller

Beach Book of the Week

KEEPING A JADED REVIEWER UP ALL night turning pages is no easy trick. But first novelist Miller has done it with vivid characterizations and clever twists in this relentless thriller. At first the deaths seem unconnected, accidental and random. But soon a pattern emerges: Someone is killing the wives and children of Drug Enforcement Agency operatives, all of whom were involved in a long-ago bust gone bad. Festering over the deaths of his own wife and child, former DEA agent Martin Fletcher—one of the genre’s more unforgettable psychopaths—is settling some gruesome scores.

Only the team leader’s family has been spared, and soon we learn the reason: Martin wants to lure him—reclusive Paul Masterson—from his Rockies hideaway to play a deadly game. Half-blind and disfigured in the bust, Masterson is forced to use his estranged wife, son and daughter as bait in a climactic showdown. One word of advice: Read The Last Family only when you can sleep in the next morning. (Bantam, $21.95)

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