Off the Grid (The Lost Platoon #2) by Monica McCarty

This title may be purchased from Amazon

A team of Navy SEALs go on a mission and disappear without a trace–they are The Lost Platoon.

Investigative reporter Brittany Blake may have stumbled upon the story of a lifetime in her search for her missing brother. When he seemingly disappears overnight, she refuses to accept the Navy’s less-than-satisfying explanation. She begins her own investigation, which leads her to top-secret SEAL teams, covert ops, and a possible cover up…

John Donovan is having trouble biding his time, waiting for his Commanding Officer to figure out who set up their platoon. John’s best friend and BUD/S partner, Brandon Blake, was one of the many lives tragically lost in the attack against his team. When Brandon’s sister, Brittany, tracks John down, looking for answers, he realizes that she may be their best bet–or bait–for finding out who is targeting SEAL Team Nine.

Rating: C

Off the Grid is book two in Monica McCarty’s series, The Lost Platoon, and although I haven’t read the previous book (Going Dark) I was able to follow the plot in this one without any trouble, so it worked perfectly well as a standalone.  What didn’t work so well, however, were the hackneyed storyline, stereotypical characters and the hero’s thirty-going-on-thirteen attitude towards the heroine.  Oh, and description of the hero’s mighty wang as a “turgid beast”.  I kid you not.

The book opens with a prologue in which John Donovan and the rest of Team Nine –  a top secret group of Navy SEALS which has been put together to undertake the blackest of black-ops – searching a supposedly abandoned Russian gulag for proof of the existence of some kind of doomsday weapon when an explosion kills half the platoon. The rest of the men make their escape and then scatter, dropping off the radar while their commander, Scott Taylor, tries to work out exactly what happened.  He believes they were betrayed by someone on their own side, and it’s safest for them all to stay dead until he can figure out what the hell happened.

Ten weeks later, John is living as Joe Phillips, a Canadian ski-bum, and is working at a resort in Finland as a ski instructor and tour guide.   He’s bored to the back teeth, until he gets a call from Scott informing him that Brittany Blake, whose brother, Brand, was killed in the explosion, is stirring up trouble. An investigative journalist, Brit has written a number of stories for the paper she works for about the so-called ‘lost platoon’ in hopes of finding out what happened to her brother, and her latest article has just hit the international news sites.  Scott tells John to find a way to silence her, and when John is reluctant, points out that she could well be putting her own life in danger as well as those of the rest of the platoon.

You can read the rest of this review at All About Romance.

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Cold Blooded (Cold Justice #9) by Toni Anderson

This title may be downloaded from Amazon

A journalist searching for the truth about her best friend’s death—and the FBI agent who needs her to stop. 

Disgraced investigative journalist Pip West is devastated when she discovers her best friend’s body face-down in a tranquil lake. When cops and federal agents determine that her friend overdosed then drowned, Pip knows they’re mistaken and intends to prove it.

Special Agent Hunt Kincaid doesn’t trust journalists and has no patience for Pip’s delusions, especially since her meddling could reveal why the FBI is interested in her friend’s last days. The dead scientist worked at the cutting edge of vaccine research and might have a connection to a new, weaponized, vaccine-resistant anthrax strain that just hit the black market.

Pip is thrown off her game by grief and her unexpected attraction to the handsome federal agent. Hunt battles the same unwelcome pull, determined to resist the heat that threatens to consume them both. But the more Pip digs, the closer she gets to both the sexy FBI agent, and to a bioweapons terrorist who’s more than capable of cold-bloodedly sacrificing anyone who gets in his way.

Rating: B

I’ve been reading more and more romantic suspense novels of late, and although Toni Anderson is an author who’s been on my radar for a while, for some reason, I’ve not yet got around to reading anything of hers.  After reading her guest post at AAR a few weeks ago, I decided to rectify that, and picked up the latest in her Cold Justice series – Cold Blooded – for review.  It’s the ninth full-length novel in the series (which also includes a novella), but I had no problems whatsoever following the story, so I can say with confidence that it works perfectly well as a standalone.  I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to fans of the genre; the plot is topical and well-executed, the characters are likeable and while the romantic angle is perhaps more low key than I normally like, it makes sense within the context of the story that this pair would take a bit of time to warm up to each other.

Pip West’s career as an investigative journalist might well be over following the recent publication of her story about police corruption that led to a dirty cop murdering his wife and kids before turning his gun on himself.  Devastated and burdened with guilt, Pip has fled her home in Florida and driven to rural Georgia, intending to stay with her best friend, Cindy – a research scientist at nearby Blake University – while she gets herself together and works out what she wants to do with the rest of her life.  Arriving at her friend’s remote cabin on Lake Allatoona, Pip is worried when she sees her Cindy’s car outside, but can find no trace of her.  Upstairs on the balcony, she sees something floating in the lake and is horrified to realise it’s Cindy.  Panicked and horrified, Pip manages to drag the body out of the water and to call 911 – but it’s too late.

Following the discovery of a terrorist cell in possession of weaponised anthrax, Special Agent Hunt Kincaid, WMD co-ordinator at the Atlanta field office of the FBI, has been tasked with reaching out to anyone in the area whose work involves the use of bacillus anthracis.  Intelligence suggests that this new strain has come from a US source, so Hunt and his counterparts throughout the US are being alerted and given similar tasks, but given the number of government facilities, universities and biotech companies in the area – including the Centre for Disease Control – the Atlanta office is the first on the case.

Hunt’s first stop is Blake University, where he intends to speak to the staff and students who work with the anthrax virus there.  His tour of the department is interrupted by news of the death of a PhD student who had been working on a new vaccine against the virus – and the timing is too much of a coincidence for him to ignore.  He heads out to Lake Allatoona where the local police tell him they suspect the death of the young woman – Cindy Resnick – to be drug related.  When her friend – the dark-haired young woman Hunt noticed immediately upon arriving at the scene –  insists Cindy never took drugs, Hunt takes the assertion with a pinch of salt; after all, this woman found the body and because of that, is currently at the top of the list of potential suspects should this prove to be a homicide.

Pip knows the handsome FBI agent is suspicious of her, but she’s too mired in grief and anger to care.  She knows Cindy wouldn’t – couldn’t – have committed suicide and she’s determined to find out the truth, but it won’t be easy.  After her last investigation, she’s wary of law-enforcement – and once the local cops find out about her exposé of police corruption, they’re not exactly queuing up to help her either.

Pip and Hunt pursue their own lines of enquiry for the first part of the book, their paths crossing mostly accidentally, each suspicious of the other and very cautious about sharing what they find out.  After a journalist stitched him up in a move that almost cost him his career, Hunt has no love for reporters, so he’s not well-disposed towards Pip – no matter that he can’t help the strong pull of attraction he feels towards her. But the more he sees of her, the more convinced he becomes that Pip had nothing to do with Cindy’s death – and Pip finds herself wanting to trust Hunt, even though she knows he subscribes to the police’s theory that Cindy’s death was, if not suicide, then helped along by her use of drugs.  But a second death – another scientist and friend of Cindy’s – also thought to be drug related, brings Hunt to the realisation that Pip has probably been right all along and that there’s more to her friend’s death than getting high and taking an ill-advised swim.

The suspense storyline is tightly-plotted and well-researched, the tension building gradually through its various twists and turns until reaching the final chapters, which really amp things up and propel us towards an exciting, high-stakes finale.  The romance is more of a slow burn, with Pip and Hunt gradually moving in ever decreasing circles around each other as they slowly learn to shed their suspicions and to work together, but this felt completely right given the circumstances and their past experiences.  I appreciated the absence of the over-the-top mental lusting that is so often present in today’s romance novels; Hunt and Pip are attracted to and aware of each other, yes, but there’s never any sense that the plot is being suspended while they mentally drool over one another’s perfect bodies.  I liked both characters, although I can’t deny that there’s something a bit stock-in-trade about both of them; Hunt is your classic ‘I don’t do relationships because I don’t like losing people’ type, and Pip is the ‘I had a shitty childhood and now I don’t trust easily’ one.  That said though, they’re relatable and engaging, and I particularly liked the flirtatious, playful side Hunt allowed out occasionally.  Pip’s grief is very well-handled, too – her sadness and feelings of guilt and uncertainty permeate the first part of the book in a subtle way, and I was pleased to see that she didn’t suddenly recover and start to act as though nothing had happened as the story progressed.

In the negative column though, there are places where the pacing flags and others that feel repetitive, particularly when we’re in Hunt’s PoV and he keeps reminding himself that Pip is a suspect, that he doesn’t trust reporters, and he shouldn’t get involved with her.  I still wanted to know how things would turn out, but there were times I found myself skimming to get to the next bit of plot.

Overall, however, Cold Blooded is an enjoyable, suspenseful read, and I’ll definitely be seeking out more of Ms. Anderson’s work.

Firestorm (Flashpoint #3) by Rachel Grant


This title may be purchased from Amazon

CIA covert operator Savannah James is after intel on a potential coup in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but she needs a partner fluent in Lingala to infiltrate the organization. Sergeant First Class Cassius Callahan is the perfect choice, except he doesn’t like her very much. He doesn’t trust her, either, despite the sparks that flare between them, fierce and hot. Still, he accepts the assignment even though their cover requires Savvy to pose as his mistress.

They enter battle-worn Congo to expose the financing for the coup. A trail of cobalt, gold, and diamonds leads them into the heart of a jungle in which everyone is desperate to find the mother lode of ore and gems. Betrayal stalks them as they follow the money, but Savvy will stop at nothing to bring down the would-be dictator before he can ignite a firestorm that will engulf all of Africa.

Deep in the sultry rainforest, spy and Green Beret forge a relationship more precious than diamonds, but Cal knows Savvy is willing to sacrifice anything—or anyone—to complete her mission. As they near the flashpoint, Cal will have to save her from the greatest threat of all: herself.

Rating: A

I’ve been eager to get my hands on Firestorm, the third book in Rachel Grant’s gripping Flashpoint series, for months – and it was definitely worth the wait.  This is one high-octane, high-stakes ride; steamy, complex, intricately plotted, politically astute and emotionally fraught, Firestorm is easily one of the best romantic suspense novels I’ve read in ages and Ms. Grant is clearly an author at the top of her game.

All the books in the series have been set in and around the fictional US base of Camp Citron on the outskirts of Djibouti.  The series is called Flashpoint for a very good reason; the stories take place in some of the most dangerous places in the world (the Horn of Africa, Sudan and Congo), which are – literally – potential flashpoints that turn on a knife-edge; unstable regions and countries open to exploitation by influences both foreign and domestic.  In this story, most of the action takes place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the Russian-backed dictator-in-waiting, Jean Paul Lubanga, is planning to seize power and gain control of the country’s massive wealth in diamonds, minerals and uranium oxide.  Russian control of the DRC would destabilise the already precarious political situation in Central Africa, and most worrying of all, the likely supply of uranium to places like Syria and Iran could be the first step towards World War Three.  The stakes couldn’t be higher, and Camp Citron’s resident ‘spook’, Savannah James, has been tasked with finding out exactly how close Lubanga is to staging a coup.

Savannah – Savvy –  has been a prominent secondary character throughout the series, a coolly enigmatic and ruthless (when called for) woman who is believed throughout the camp to be working for the CIA, although nobody knows for sure.  She’s frighteningly competent and utterly dedicated to getting the job done by whatever means necessary –and sometimes those means aren’t pretty.  Most of the people on camp dislike her and give her a wide berth, although she’s found an ally of sorts in Master Sergeant Pax Blanchard (hero of Tinderbox, book one) and Chief Warrant Officer Sebastian Ford (hero of Catalyst, book two), the latter in spite of the fact that she ordered Bastian to seduce his now-fiancée, Brie Stewart, in order to gain information about the links between Brie’s family and the Russian mafia.  The one man in Bastian and Pax’s circle who makes no attempt to hide his dislike of Savvy is Sergeant First Class Cassius Callahan (Cal); that he also happens to be the one man Savvy wants at her back as she infiltrates a gathering comprising some of the most dangerous men in the world is not about to make life any easier for either of them.

There’s been a strong undercurrent of lust and sexual tension humming between Savvy and Cal since book one; they’re not exactly in denial, they both know they’re intensely attracted to one another, but neither is very happy about it and they keep their distance as far as possible.  But that’s going to be impossible if Cal accepts the mission Savvy outlines; the only way she will be able to gain access to the party being thrown by Radimir Gorov is if she turns up hanging on the arm of an obviously powerful, ambitious and dangerous man.  Which is where Cal comes in.

“Warlords and oligarchs will never accept a woman at the table unless she’s there as a toy… you’re the businessman.  I’ll be your sex toy.”

Cal and Savvy are both strong, likeable, highly intelligent characters who share an intense dedication to doing what’s right and are driven to protect those they care for and those less fortunate.  Savvy is tough as nails and is as highly trained as any special forces operative, yet she has faced – and continues to face – sexism and misogyny, even from those who are supposed to have her back.  When she realises the extent of the manipulation to which she has been subjected by someone she’d trusted implicitly, it’s an excruciating – and ultimately life-threatening – betrayal that sees her and Cal running for their lives.

This is a very personal mission for Cal.  The son of a Congolese mother and American father, his aunt and female cousins were raped and murdered by soldiers in the Second Congo War, and his male cousins disappeared; to this day it’s not known whether they died or have become part of the same rebel group that killed his aunt and her daughters.  Cal may have been born in the US, but there’s no denying the strong kinship he feels with his mother’s homeland, and he’s just as determined as Savvy to strike a blow against the would-be interlopers and criminals who want to strip the Congo of its resources and autonomy.

The fake-relationship trope is perhaps a bit of an overdone premise in this particular genre, but be assured it’s only a springboard for what follows. There is much, MUCH more to this novel than the scorching sexual chemistry between the two leads; we’re plunged straight into a multi-layered story full of danger and nail-biting tension while at the same time we’re seeing the layers of suspicion and distrust built up by both Savvy and Cal being slowly peeled away to reveal the true nature and depth of their feelings for one another.  The author has created compelling and rich personal stories for both protagonists, and, as usual, doesn’t shy away from referring to the atrocities and corruption that are every day occurrences in this part of the world.

I never fail to be impressed by Ms. Grant’s impeccable research and her ability to construct a sophisticated, topical and perfectly paced story that grabs me from page one and pushes me closer to the edge of my seat with each chapter.  Firestorm is a real treat for lovers of romantic suspense; great characters with off-the-charts chemistry, a tender romance, a powerfully compelling plot full of dramatic twists and turns, and one of those against-all-odds finales that has you jumping up and down and punching the air when the good guys triumph over evil.  I think this is the last book in the series and I’m certainly sorry to see it end –although you can colour me intrigued by the little glimpse we’re given of what we might have to look forward to next.

Firestorm is romantic suspense done right and to the max. Don’t miss it.

Mine: A Novel of Obsession by J.L. Butler

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Young divorce lawyer Francine Day has methodically built her career doing everything right. She’s one big case away from securing her place among London’s legal elite. But when she meets her new client, Martin Joy, the natural caution that has protected Francine and fueled her rise melts away. Powerless to fight the irresistible magnetism between them, client and counsel tumble into a blistering affair that breaks every rule.

Though Martin insists his marriage is over, Francine doesn’t believe him. Certain details he’s told her don’t quite add up. Consumed with a passion she cannot control and increasingly obsessed with Martin’s relationship with his wife, Donna, Francine follows the woman one night . . . and discovers her having dinner with her supposedly soon-to-be-ex-husband.

The next morning, Francine awakens in her neighbor’s apartment with blood on her clothes and no recollection of what transpired after she spied Donna and Martin together. Then Francine receives more devastating news: Martin’s wife has vanished. That dinner was the last place anyone has seen Donna Joy alive.

Suddenly, Francine finds herself caught in a dangerous labyrinth of deception, lies, and secrets, in which one false move could lead to her undoing. What happened that night and why can’t Francine remember? Where is Donna and who is responsible for her disappearance? The further Francine goes to find answers, the tighter the net seems to draw—around her lover, herself, and the life she’s meticulously built.

Rating: B

The premise for J.L Butler’s Mine sounded really intriguing, as did the idea of a barrister heroine, so I jumped right in and was immediately pulled into the story.  I don’t read many mysteries (I tend to prefer romantic suspense), but this one grabbed me right away, and even though there were a few things about the plotline and central character that made me scratch my head, I was pretty much gripped from beginning to end.

Francine Day, a hard-working barrister in her late thirties is a bit of a misfit in her profession. She comes from a working class family, she doesn’t have a public school education and she’s from Lancashire, her voice still carrying a bit of the northern twang she grew up with.  She works mostly in the field of family law, and has made herself a reputation as one of the best divorce lawyers around, specialising in the marital splits of the very wealthy.  It’s this reputation that brings her a client by the name of Martin Joy, an obscenely wealthy investment banker whose wife is out to take him to the cleaners for everything she can get.  Donna Joy wants half of everything Martin owns, including half his future earnings – and he wants to protect the company he and his friend, Alex Cole, have built from nothing.

The initial meeting over and arrangements made for the preliminary hearing, Fran is surprised to bump into Martin a few days later, in Selfridges of all places, and he invites her to have a drink with him.  One drink leads to another and eventually leads to their ending up in bed at Martin’s East London apartment and to a passionate affair that is completely outside Fran’s normal experience of sex and relationships.

This should perhaps ring the alarm bells.  She’s built a career on being upfront and doing what’s right – possibly as a reaction against her rather ‘wild-child’, rebellious adolescence – and she’s being encouraged by her colleagues and superiors to apply to take silk (which means she will become a QC, Queen’s Counsel, which is a prestigious appointment in her profession), and needs to keep her nose clean.  But she’s never felt this way about anyone and the thrill of being with Martin pushes all thoughts of her career into the back seat.  Eventually, however, the stress of keeping their relationship a secret begins to take its toll, and Fran finds herself gradually drowning amid the lies, her heavy workload and the hints of resurgence of the bi-polar disorder that she normally keeps under control through medication.  Even as she recognises the absurdity of her actions, when she suspects Martin is lying to her, and that perhaps his marriage is not as dead as he claims it is, Fran follows him one night and sees him meeting Donna, for a meal and then continues to watch them as they return to her house late that night.

Angry, frustrated and jealous, Fran gets blind drunk – and then wakes up on her neighbour’s sofa the following morning with no idea of how she got there or what happened after she saw Martin and Donna going into the house.

But worse news is to follow a few days later when it transpires that Donna Joy has vanished, and Fran may well have been the last person to have seen her.  Martin insists that Donna was prone to just taking off for days and weeks at a time without warning, but the fact that she took nothing with her – no bag, ID or clothes – says this is something more than her usual impulsive flit.  The police pursue a missing persons enquiry but it’s clear that they suspect Martin has something do so with his wife’s disappearance, especially given everything he stands to lose in the divorce.  Yet in spite of things she’s learned about Martin since they first met, in spite of the fact that he’s lied to her and is clearly a ruthless operator, Fran knows he’s innocent.   But she can’t prove it.  Even so, she goes all out to protect Martin and to protect herself, becoming more and more deeply enmeshed in the ever expanding circles of secrets and lies that are spiralling out of control.

My fellow AAR reviewer Shannon – who reviews a lot of mysteries – often says that she doesn’t have to like characters for them to be engaging or interesting, and that’s definitely something that was going through my head as I read Mine.  It’s not always easy to believe that Fran is the highly-educated, dedicated professional we’re asked to believe her to be, and there’s no denying she makes some unwise choices. Getting involved with a client is certainly unprofessional, and the fact that she drinks to excess on occasion, even though she knows she should avoid alcohol because of the medication she takes – yet she still manages to be an engaging heroine.

She’s someone who hasn’t had a lot of close personal relationships in her life, which perhaps makes her obsession with Martin understandable. He’s hot, he’s rich and he’s clearly interested in more than just a short fling with her, and she likes the power-rush she gets from knowing the effect she has on him in the bedroom, especially.  But this element of the plot falls down somewhat because the character of Martin, as written, isn’t particularly charismatic.  He’s described as being handsome, charming and magnetic, but he’s underwritten, which makes it difficult to fully buy into Fran’s obsession with him and thus to understand some of her less sensible decisions.  But with that said, her mistakes make her seem more human, more ordinary and relatable somehow; and I was able, in spite of them, to become sufficiently invested in her to need to know how things would pan out.

Mine is an expertly woven, well-paced and intense story, and I enjoyed it in spite of its flaws.  The friendship between Fran and her bestie, Claire, feels very genuine, and the author’s depiction of life in a busy chambers and of the London locations (and the area of Essex I live in) all ring very true.  I didn’t see the final twist coming, which is always a bonus, and while the characters might not be particularly likeable, I didn’t mind it; their shortcomings make them interesting, at the very least.  If you’re looking for an engrossing but not too dark and gory mystery to while away a few hours this summer, Minemight very well fit the bill.

Forbidden Stranger (The Protector #3) by Megan Hart (audiobook) – Narrated by Saskia Maarleveld

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Nina Bronson and Ewan Donahue have put their love to its limits. To Ewan, she’s the only woman he wants to be with for the rest of his life. To Nina, whose memories have been ripped out of her, Ewan is her kind and generous boss who’s helping her recover after an accident she also can’t remember. The more time they spend together, the more she begins to feel for him, but Ewan knows the truth – she loved him once.

As Ewan tries to do whatever it takes to get Nina back to herself without putting her in danger, the two of them have to build a brand-new relationship from the ground up. Sometimes, a lie isn’t a betrayal, it’s a lifesaver. Can Nina forgive Ewan for not telling her the truth about why she lost so much of her memories, or are they doomed to never be together again?

Rating: Narration – A- : Content – B-

Forbidden Stranger is the final instalment of Megan Hart’s futuristic Protector trilogy, in which the overarching storyline pairs a kick-ass female bodyguard with a wealthy billionaire industrialist. I loved the premise of the series, the author’s world-building is terrific, the narration is excellent, and the first book is gripping, but sadly, books two and three suffer from the same problems – too much filler, not enough action and final acts that are rushed. On reflection, this story would probably have worked better as a duology, with the events of book two stripped of the filler and combined with a pared-down book three.

Please note that there will be spoilers for books one and two – Dangerous Promise and Wicked Attraction – in this review.

In Dangerous Promise, listeners were introduced to the author’s vision of a near-future coloured by war, environmental damage and cyber-terrorism. Nina Bronson is one of fifteen former soldiers who were technologically enhanced during life-saving surgery, the nano-chips implanted in their brains enabling them to be stronger and faster than normal humans and to control their emotional and physical reactions. The chips also allow the enhanced to have their memories wiped and for them to be reset after sensitive assignments should their clients so wish. Nina is engaged by billionaire businessman Ewan Donahue, the most vocal opponent of enhancement technology, as his personal bodyguard after several failed attempts on his life.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The Girl in the Moss (Angie Pallorino #3) by Loreth Anne White

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Disgraced ex-cop Angie Pallorino is determined to make a new start for herself as a private investigator. But first, she and her lover, newly promoted homicide detective James Maddocks, attempt a quiet getaway to rekindle a romance struggling in the shadows of their careers. The peace doesn’t last long when human skeletal remains are found in a nearby mossy grove.

This decades-old mystery is just what Angie needs to establish her new career—even as it thrusts her and Maddocks back into the media spotlight, once again endangering their tenuous relationship.

Then, when Angie’s inquiry into the old crime intersects with a cold case from her own policing past—one that a detective on Maddocks’s new team is working—the investigation takes a startling twist. It puts more than Angie’s last shot at redemption and a future with Maddocks at risk. The mystery of the girl in the moss could kill her.

Rating: B+

In this final instalment in her trio of novels featuring Angie Pallorino, Loreth Anne White delivers another compulsively readable, complex mystery that hooks your interest from the get-go and gradually tightens its grip until you literally can’t put the book down.   It’s like reading a snowball; an impactful start sees it start rolling down the hill, gradually getting larger as it picks up and encompasses other clues, plot-threads and information and travels faster and faster until it hits bottom to reach an explosive and immensely satisfying dénouement.  Here, that snowball starts rolling when former detective Angie Pallorino and her boyfriend, Detective James Maddocks are taking a four day trip down the Nahamish River on a quiet, romantic getaway.  It’s been a tough few months for Angie, who was busted down to a desk job after she was judged to have used excessive force to take down a serial killer.  Furious and frustrated, Angie broke the twelve-month probation imposed upon her and went rogue, continuing to work on the case of the bar-code girls (in book two, The Lullaby Girl) which also led her to her discovering the truth about her parentage and true identity as the daughter of a sex-trafficker and major crimelord.  Unable to return to the job she loved, Angie is trying to pick up the pieces of her life, and is now working towards getting her PI license, but given the intense publicity generated by the news of her identity, her backstory as the “angel’s cradle baby” and her part in bringing down a major sex-trafficking ring, there are almost no PI agencies willing to hire her (she’s too high-profile) so she can get the required number of hours under her belt she needs before she can branch out on her own.

Things between Angie and Maddocks are uncertain, too.  He’s the golden boy of the Metro Victoria PD and has been appointed to head up a prestigious new task-force while she is struggling to find out who she is if she isn’t a cop.  She knows she loves Maddocks and wants to be with him, but Angie is subconsciously pulling back – and Maddocks knows her well enough to realise it but is worried that she’ll run if she gets the chance.  Their relationship isn’t in the best place, but they hope that a little time spent together with nothing to interrupt or distract them will get them back on track.  Unfortunately, that is not to be when on their last night at the camp, a skeleton is found near the banks of the river.  It’s going to be the morning before local law-enforcement can get to such a remote location and secure the scene, so Maddocks and Angie spend what should have been a romantic evening, complete with gourmet dinner, wine and hot tub, camped out next to a crime scene.

The remains are eventually identified as belonging to a young woman named Jasmine Gulati who died while on a fishing trip on the Nahamish some twenty-four years earlier.  She had been part of a group of women anglers who were taking part in a documentary being filmed by Rachel Hart, who had chosen her subjects to be from different walks of life and in different stages of their lives.  Much as the producers of shows like Big Brother do today, Rachel had hoped that their differences would produce interesting viewing – but after Jasmine’s death, the project was canned and the documentary never appeared.

A while later, Angie is surprised to receive a phone call from a retired judge, Jilly Monaghan, who explains that Jasmine was her granddaughter and offers Angie a large fee if she will find out what really happened to her.  Her death has been ruled accidental, but the judge wants to know if that is really the case or not; either way, she wants the closure that knowing the truth will bring.

Angie’s investigation soon leads her to suspect that Jasmine’s death wasn’t an accident at all, and as she digs deeper, she exposes the web of secrets, lies and conspiracies that have lain buried in the small community of Port Ferris for almost twenty five years.  The mystery is gripping; tightly constructed and incredibly well-written, and the author makes fantastic use of her wilderness setting, which is both beautiful and terrifying, at the same time brilliantly conveying the insular nature of a small, close-knit community such as this one.  The men resent Angie and what they see as her interference, and are prepared to do whatever it takes to protect their own.  It would be easy to laugh at this unsophisticated group of ‘hillbillies’ but no, they’re actually extremely disturbing and Angie is in real danger, probably more than she’s ever been, considering that she’s no longer a cop and doesn’t have the weight of authority behind her – or a gun.

There’s an intriguing secondary plotline in which Maddocks sets up a new cold case unit placing Angie’s former partner, Kjel Holgerson, at its head.  This storyline serves to bring us back neatly to some of the events of The Drowned Girls, but it also opens up the possibility of more stories set in this ‘universe’;  I would certainly not be averse to reading more about the enigmatic and oddly endearing Holgerson.  I also liked the author’s subtle exploration of the ethics of cold cases; in a situation such as this one, where one family needs closure, another is ripped apart, so it’s difficult – or impossible – to achieve a balance.  But Angie is, as ever, focused on finding the truth, no matter how hard it is.  Her own experiences have taught her that it’s better to know and deal than to deny, and ultimately, the needs of justice have to be served.

My one niggle about the book is that Maddocks is (necessarily) MIA for almost all of it, even though there’s no question he’s a huge presence in Angie’s life and her desire to come to him as a woman who knows who she is and where she’s going is the impetus for her becoming involved in the Gulati case.  Still, the brief glimpses we get of their relationship are well done, and while I’d have liked a bit more of them together, I think they needed the short separation in order to remind one another of exactly what they have together.

A complex, atmospheric thriller with a pervading sense of menace, especially in the second half, The Girl in the Moss is a terrific finale to a terrific series, and I really hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Angie, Maddocks, Holgerson – and Jack-O.

Dangerous Promise (The Protector #1) by Megan Hart (audiobook) – Narrated by Saskia Maarleveld


This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

Nina Bronson used to be all human – until the experimental surgeries and internal technology that saved her life and enhanced her as a soldier also forced her to leave the army for private service. Now she and her peers are facing slow, painful deaths unless their technology is upgraded, and the one man keeping those upgrades illegal and unavailable is an obnoxious billionaire. A man too gorgeous for his own good.

A man she’s supposed to guard with her life.

Ewan Donahue is the public voice speaking out against the enhancement procedures of injured soldiers. But when his lobbying leads to death threats, he needs someone to protect him around the clock. He doesn’t want to rely on an enhanced soldier – Nina’s tech goes against everything he stands for. But he really doesn’t want her to be beautiful like she is. Doesn’t want her to suffer like she will. Doesn’t want to succumb to the searing desire he feels for her. As a series of attacks on his life send them to a remote cabin, their close proximity brings them together in ways they never imagined. They know they must prevent the need simmering between them, resist each other at all costs. But when tensions are high and danger is close, passion burns hottest of all….

Rating: Narration – A : Content – B+

Megan Hart’s The Protector trilogy is set in the near future, in a world which has suffered a Second Cold War, massive environmental damage following an abortive attempt to colonise the moon and the near destruction of the planet’s computer infrastructure when an unknown hacker wiped out around ninety percent of the world’s servers and back-up data, deleting bank accounts, personal data and causing untold chaos. It’s a world that is recognisable (and eerily plausible!) yet subtly different from our own, and the author does a fabulous job in Dangerous Promise  of balancing the need for backstory and world-building with the plot and the romance in the story.

I’ll say now that this is a trilogy in which all three books need to be read or listened to in order to experience the complete story and reach the HEA; fortunately, at time of writing, all three books are available so you’ll be able to jump straight in to the whole thing without having to wait months for the next instalment.

Nina Bronson is one of fifteen former soldiers who underwent experimental surgery after being severely injured. In fact, she was dead for seven minutes – and was brought back to life by the implantation of newly invented nano-technology in her brain, technology which gives her greater strength and stamina and the ability to control her physical and emotional reactions and bodily functions. But not long after these procedures were carried out, the program which created it was shut down and laws were passed forbidding any future research or experimentation on the tech, meaning that Nina and her fellow ‘enhanced’ are the only ones like them in existence, and that as the tech eventually degrades, so will they.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.