Colton 911: Agent By Her Side by Deborah Fletcher Mello

This title may be purchased from Amazon

She’ll do anything to track a killer

If P.I. Kiely Colton must work with FBI agent Cooper Winston, she will. But to solve a cold case, she won’t change her break-the-rules style to accommodate the single father’s by-the-book principles. But Kiely finds herself inexplicably attracted to her new partner. Will a ruthless killer put an end to their future before it begins?

Rating: D

The Colton 911: Grand Rapids series is part of a wider universe featuring members of the Colton family (who are all military, law enforcement or in some other related profession) who live and work across the US.  It’s a multi-author series, in which all the books are supposed to be able to stand alone, but as I quickly discovered not long after I started reading Colton 911: Agent By Her Side (book four in the Grand Rapids series) the need to incorporate various items of backstory led to lots and lots of mind-numbing info-dumps that added precisely nothing to the main storyline.

The overarching plot of this mini-series concerns the search for con artist Wes Matthews, who has defrauded people of millions and endangered lives by selling a fake supplement promising to be a fountain of youth called RevitaYou that containes traces of Ricin, AND scammed most of his investors out of a fortune via a dodgy pyramid scheme.  Matthews has eluded capture so far, but this story opens with a call to the FBI tip line with information that he’s holed up in a remote location by Reeds Lake.  The person manning the tip line is not an FBI agent or employee but a local PI, Kiely Colton – which felt completely unlikely; why would the FBI employ a PI to man their phones?  (And is it ‘Keeley’ or ‘Kylie’?  I like to pronounce names correctly in my head when I’m reading, and continually wondering what it was supposed to be pulled me out of the story almost every time I saw it.)

Anyway, Kiely takes the tip to Special Agent Cooper Winston, with whom we’re told she has butted heads in the past, and who is heading up the hunt for Matthews. Kiely and Cooper are just about to head out to the lake to check out the tip when Cooper gets a call from his son’s preschool to say that little Alfie has been snatched.  An anonymous phone call after they arrive telling Cooper to stop the search for Matthews confirms suspicions that whoever took Alfie is related to the case somehow, so Cooper and Kiely decide to check out the cottage at Reeds Lake and whaddya know?  Alfie and the kidnapper are there!

They rescue Alfie – but Cooper suffers a couple of cracked ribs, a head injury and a concussion, and receives strict instructions from the doctor that he’s to take it easy for six weeks – how on earth will he manage? No prizes for guessing he asks Kiely to become his live-in nanny.

Kiely – who isn’t fond of kids and whose sisters insist she doesn’t have a maternal bone in her body – finds that Alfie has “somehow wrangled a tight grip on her heart”  She’s a domestic goddess, making  gourmet meals and getting Alfie to eat whatever she serves up without complaint.  A couple of days later, Cooper’s house is bombed and he’s once again warned off searching for Matthews.

Cooper, Kiely and Alfie are moved to a luxury safe house where Kiely gets to do yet more gourmet cooking, more bonding with Alfie and more making eyes at Cooper. Oh, no wait – there’s no making eyes, and no romantic tension between Cooper and Kiely whatsoever.  We’re told they’re attracted to each other – Kiely finds the sight of Cooper in nothing but his boxers causes “heat [to] course straight though her feminine spirit” for example (whatever the hell a “feminine spirit” is – Gin? Vodka?) – but shown nothing to back it up.

After the move to the safe house, we tread water until around the three-quarters mark, but I’d lost interest long before then.  And I had to wonder – how safe is a safe house where the people living there can make phone calls on their personal mobiles, go out grocery shopping and have their sister over to visit? There are so many inconsistencies in the story I can’t possibly point to them all. We spend over half the book watching Cooper and Kiely play Happy Families while the author talks up their non-existent connection, until Kiely comes out with this gem:

“Are you interested in a relationship, Cooper?”

Before they’ve even kissed – but even if they had, who SAYS something like that?!

There are a couple of sex scenes, hence the ‘warm’ rating going by AAR’s guidelines, but personally, I’d rate it as ‘damp (and not in a good way!) squib’ – and it’s full of flowery language about “sensual gratification” and “hedonistic decadence” and “heat rising like a vengeance between them” – when there’s no heat at all.

The writing is wooden and cliché-laden; my Kindle is bursting with notes, but here’s one choice passage:

“She was sunshine in the midst of a storm.  Her carefree spirit was like a breath of fresh air.  She was light in a well of darkness. She was everything he had been missing in his lie.  He had vowed to never love again, but something about Kiely had him reconsidering that pledge.”


And when Cooper says this to Kiely:

“Who knows why women do what they do? I stopped trying to figure you and your kind out years ago.”

I was hard pressed to remember that this book was published in 2020 and was written by a woman.

So we’ve got a plot that basically goes nowhere, a commitment shy hero and heroine, a bunch of family connections far too large to keep track of, and Alfie the wonder-kid,  one of those miraculous plot-moppets who, though often referred to as “the baby” can say things like “Open da door, Ki-Ki! Got to go potty!” and “Me was a bad boy. Alfie will be good, okay?” , and is confused when he registers that Kiely’s twin sister looks like Kiely but isn’t her. (I’m not sure a toddler would notice or care much about it!)

Colton 911: Agent By Her Side is the first book I’ve read by this author and on this showing, it’ll be the last.  I haven’t read any of the other books in this series, and even though they’re by a variety of authors, I’m not exactly inspired with confidence to try another one.  This one isn’t romantic, it’s not suspenseful and to call the characters cardboard cut-outs is, frankly, an insult to cardboard-cut outs everywhere.

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