Cold As Ice (Cold Justice – The Negotiators #5) by Toni Anderson (audiobook) – Narrated by Eric G. Dove

cold as ice Anderson

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When Darby O’Roarke wakes up in a strange house with a dead man – with no memory of what happened – she knows who she has to call: FBI Supervisory Special Agent Eban Winters…the man she fell for, and who rejected her, last summer.

A negotiator isn’t supposed to get involved with kidnap victims, and Eban has been trying to avoid the temptation that is Darby O’Roarke ever since they met. One frantic phone call has him racing to Alaska to uncover the truth, but he faces stubborn opposition from the local police, and a growing media frenzy.

Getting Darby released from jail and keeping her safe is his first priority. When another woman is brutally slain, evidence emerges that suggests Darby is being framed, and that the culprit is a vicious serial killer who has eluded the FBI for more than a decade…and, now, the killer has Darby in their sights.

Rating: Narration – B; Content – B

In this fifth instalment of Toni Anderson’s Cold Justice: The Negotiators series, we catch up with a couple of the secondary characters from a previous book in the series. In book two, (Colder Than Sin) CNU (Crisis Negotiation Unit) operative Eban Winters had been part of the team sent to effect the rescue of Darby O’Roarke, an American Ph.D student in Indonesia who was kidnapped and held hostage by an extremist group and subjected to violence and sexual abuse. (Note: this story references Darby’s experiences several times, although there is nothing graphic on the page). Since surviving her ordeal, Darby has, with the help of extensive therapy, been putting her life back together and has resumed her studies (she’s a volcanologist) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

When Cold as Ice begins, Darby is waking up in strange surroundings, her mind a bit foggy, and it takes her a while to work out where she is. She remembers being at a party with colleagues the previous evening, and is and lying on a sofa in someone’s living room, relieved to find herself fully dressed. Darby then recognises the room as belonging to a fellow grad student, Martin Carstairs, and recalls dancing with him and a group of friends at the party and generally having fun – but she doesn’t have any recollection of much after that, and has no idea how she got to Martin’s place. Maybe she had too much to drink and he was looking out for her? Trying to get her mind straight, she tidies up a little and then makes her way cautiously upstairs to see if Martin is in the house. He is. On his bed. With a hunting knife sticking out of his chest.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Cold Wicked Lies (Cold Justice: Crossfire #3) by Toni Anderson (audiobook) – Narrated by Eric G. Dove

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

In an effort to halt an armed standoff, FBI negotiator Charlotte Blood tries to unravel the mystery of a young woman’s death on a remote mountainside. Pity she has to fight her stubborn, sexy, Hostage Rescue Team counterpart every step of the way.

As a highly skilled operative, HRT leader Payne Novak doesn’t have time to play detective or make nice with killers who flout the law. His focus is getting inside the compound and ending the siege as quickly as possible.

Forced to work together, the battle-hardened HRT team leader and the quietly determined negotiator figure out they might have more in common than they anticipated. As the clock ticks, Charlotte discovers there are some dangers she can’t talk her way out of, and the race to unearth long-buried lies becomes a matter of survival for everyone on the mountain.

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – A-

Cold Wicked Lies is book three in Toni Anderson’s Cold Justice: Crossfire series, which is a spin-off from her long-running Cold Justice series. I recently listened to book one of the Crossfire books, Cold & Deadly, and thoroughly enjoyed it; I’ve leapfrogged over book two (which I intend to listen to very soon), but even though characters from other books do appear in others, all the books in both series work as standalones, so I had absolutely no trouble diving straight into this one.

The Crossfire series features characters who work as negotiators in the FBI’s Crisis Negotiation Unit, agents who are deployed to manage crisis situations and hopefully bring them to a peaceful resolution through negotiation and co-operation. In Cold Wicked Lies, the CNU is called to a remote mountainside location in Washington State to try to prevent an armed standoff between law enforcement and the inhabitants of a local survivalist compound. When TJ Harrison – son of the group’s leader – stumbles across the dead body of a young woman in the nearby woods, he is discovered by a Federal Wildlife Officer who clearly assumes he had something to do with her death. Scared, TJ runs back home followed by the FWO, who is shot and wounded by someone inside the compound. A gun battle between those on the inside and local Sheriffs and other FWOs ensued, and now the compound is locked down tight – and the last thing the FBI wants is another Waco or Ruby Ridge.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Cold & Deadly (Cold Justice: Crossfire #1) by Toni Anderson (audiobook) – Narrated by Eric G. Dove

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Hostage negotiators can talk themselves out of anything – except falling in love.

FBI Supervisory Special Agent Dominic Sheridan is an accomplished expert in the Crisis Negotiation Unit. Practiced, professional, used to dealing with high-stakes situations under tense conditions, Dominic is a master at manipulating people. Everyone, that is, but the headstrong rookie agent bent on destroying her fledgling career.

As a child, Ava Kanas put her life on the line when the mob executed her father. Now someone has killed her mentor, the man who inspired her to become an FBI agent – and she’s the only one who recognizes it was anything but a tragic accident.

When another agent is murdered and Dominic nearly dies, it becomes obvious a serial killer is targeting the FBI. Together Dominic and Ava search for clues in the investigation, all the while fighting a forbidden attraction that will complicate everything, especially when the predator sets their sights on Ava.

Rating: Narration – B; Content – B

Cold & Deadly is the first book in the spin off from Toni Anderson’s long-running Cold Justice series, Cold Justice: Crossfire, and it features characters who work as negotiators for the FBI’s Crisis Negotiation Unit, which conducts and manages on-scene negotiations during crisis events worldwide involving US citizens.  This is the first of Ms. Anderson’s books I’ve listened to – I’ve read others and have had some on my Audible wishlist for ages – and I was pleased to be able to jump in at the beginning of a series.  Narrator Eric G. Dove is new-to-me, but has almost 400 titles to his credit at Audible, so I had high hopes for both the story and the narration.

The book opens at the funeral of FBI Agent Van Stamos, who retired after thirty years of service four months earlier, then got blind drunk one night and accidentally shot himself.  Stamos was a father figure and mentor to many a rookie, including Supervisory Special Agent Dominic Sheridan, who became one of Van’s closest friends.  As friend and family mill around, Dominic is thinking about Van, and how this is the third funeral for a colleague out of the New York Field Office he’s attended in the last year – when the sound of an altercation attracts his attention. He can’t hear what’s being said, but Special Agent Ava Kanas is arguing with her boss (Van’s replacement) who clearly doesn’t want to hear what she has to say.  Years as one of the FBI’s top negotiators means Dominic is able to set his own grief and anger aside in order to diffuse the situation – but he isn’t quite prepared to hear what Kanas has to say, either.  She was one of Van’s protégés and was pretty close to him… and she is adamant that his death wasn’t an accident.  She believes he was murdered.  Dominic tries to point out that the man’s funeral isn’t the right place for this discussion when shots are fired, another agent is badly wounded, and Dominic – closely followed by Ava  – races off towards the nearby apartment block he believes must be the shooter’s location.  When they get there, there’s no sign of them – and later, learning of the injured agent’s death, he finds himself thinking that maybe Ava is right and that “there was something hinky with Van’s death” after all.

As Dominic and Ava start digging deeper, they make the alarming discovery that someone is targeting FBI agents.  Their investigation leads them into a years-old web of betrayal, revenge and murder, but with the most likely culprit dead – shot and killed by Dominic several years earlier – and leads going nowhere, it’s baffling.  And it’s not long Dominic and Ava find themselves firmly in the killer’s sights.

Cold & Deadly was a compelling listen; tightly plotted and fast-paced with plenty of action and twists and turns along the way.  The relationship between Dominic and Ava doesn’t get off to the best of starts, with rookie agent Ava coming across as something of a loose cannon with the potential to be the worst kind of TSTL.  Thankfully however, the author quickly demonstrates that she’s courageous, tenacious and good at her job, things which Dominic quickly realises, too.  He’s more than a decade older than Ava, and the nature of his job means he’s intensely pragmatic and a cool head in a crisis; he’s a rule-follower for good reasons, and they’re like chalk and cheese. Yet the attraction that sparks between them is undeniable – they have terrific chemistry, even though both of them are determined to talk themselves out of it.  Dominic also suspects that Ava is keeping something from him – about her past, her relationship with Van – and this comes into play in a really tense section set during a prison siege that, while a tangent from the main plotline, is nonetheless gripping, and provides a fascinating insight into the job of the negotiator.

I liked both characters, although Dominic is perhaps a little overshadowed by the multi-faceted, vibrant Ava, but I have to admit that I wasn’t 100% convinced by the romance, mostly because they were both so adamant that nothing could or should happen between them, and even after it did, insisted in thinking in terms of a finite arrangement.  That said, by the end of the book, they’ve both crossed that line and shown each other that they’re in it for the long haul, and despite their very different personalities, I could see it working out between them.

The identity of the villain(s) isn’t immediately obvious, but when the reveal came, it was somewhet anti-climactic.  Not because I hadn’t considered that person as a possible culprit (I hadn’t) but because they seemed an odd choice (as well as being bat-shit crazy!)  Another thing that made me scratch my head was the inclusion of a secondary character – the heroine from book one of the Cold Justice series, A Cold Dark Place – who was thirty-eight weeks pregnant, but STILL working in the field.  That seemed all kinds of unlikely and unwise to me.

As I said at the beginning, Eric G. Dove – who narrates this series and all the books in the Cold Justice series – is a very experienced narrator, but this was my first time listening to him.  I was impressed on the whole and will definitely listen to him again; his performance is well-paced and clearly enunciated, and he differentiates effectively between all the characters.  His female voices are good – not too high-pitched – and he does a particularly good job with Ava, bringing all of her ballsy determination to his portrayal while also allowing her more vulnerable side to peek through when called for.  Dominic’s deep tones and measured delivery reflect his character, but I was pleased to hear him becoming slowly less rigid in his demeanour as the story progressed and his relationship with Ava developed.  There are a large number of secondary male characters in the book, but Mr. Dove is able to voice them distinctly by employing a variety of accents and timbres so that there’s never any confusion as to who is speaking in group scenes.

All in all, Cold & Deadly is a good, solid romantic suspense novel featuring well-drawn characters and a tight, well-executed plot that kept me guessing and had me listening to ‘just one more chapter’ more than once.  I’d definitely recommend it to fans of the author and the genre in either format, and I’ll definitely be picking up more of the series in audio.