The Puppet Master picks up almost exactly where Poker Face leaves off: with office assistant Ruby Palmer living in her boss, Mr. Alessi's, mansion in England and having her and her boyfriend (lawyer Danny Glover, also Alessi's son) unable to do much of anything until the day she turns eighteen.
Ruby, fed up with being a charity case, seen as a pet and under pressure that, when Alessi and Danny's "amusement" with her has worn out, she might be put out on the street. She has nowhere to go since Alessi shot her alcoholic, abusive father.
But, after a vicious row with Danny, she does leave, to where they do not know for weeks. When they do get word of her whereabouts, it is to be invited to her new home, with Marlon, a notorious criminal with ties to the police and the drug cartel.
When Danny and Alessi see Ruby again, she is not the same feisty gal they knew: she is demure, shy and very anxious. She speaks only when spoken to or asked to...almost as if Marlon is pulling her strings like a puppet master.
Danny is invited (solo) up to her room, where the reader quickly finds out that Ruby has orders to seduce him for the cameras set up in her room, and that is when Danny notices that there is a large bruise on her upper thigh in back, where her thighs connect with her buttocks. What is that? Is she being abused?
When Danny and Alessi go home, they tell their right hand man and security about what they say and he knows immediately what is wrong: Marlon hooked Ruby on Paradise, a drug that causes total dependency on the dealer: to make sure the one addicted has enough. If one dose is missed, the "victim" gets very ill. If two doses are missed, the victim dies of a massive coronary.
Danny and Alessi are determined to take Ruby back and get her off the drug a little at a time, but that may be harder to do than they think it is. They have no idea what kind of monster Paradise turns the beloved Ruby into.
Meanwhile, Danny has to deal with the new office assistant, Faye, and her unwanted attentions. And to top it all off, who is this mysteriously beautiful woman (Tabitha) that Alessi has hired as his assistant? Just how does she fit into the story? And...what is Ruby's old antagonist, Matthew, doing at their firm?
The Puppet Master is a fast read, this is true, but it is only so because Mrs. Sturman-Coombs's writing is masterful and makes you want to keep going...even when you should have put the book down hours ago and gone to bed! With characters as lovable as the patient Danny, as confusing and likable as Ruby and as infuriating as Marlon, you will want to read this one over and over again, for the thrill never gets old...just like that of Paradise, huh?
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