The Enforcer (Games People Play #2) by HelenKay Dimon

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Security expert Matthias Clarke hunts down people who don’t want to be found. His latest prey: the sole survivor of a massacre that killed his brother years ago. Kayla Roy claimed she was a victim of the carnage. Then she disappeared. Matthias thinks Kayla may have actually been the killer—and he wants justice.

Kayla Roy never stays in one place too long and never lets a man get too close. But keeping Matthias at arm’s length may be impossible. Dark and enigmatic, Matthias draws Kayla in from the start. She knows nothing about his connection to her dark past, or his thirst for vengeance. She only knows their attraction feels overpowering—and very dangerous.

Matthias’s suspicions about the sensual Kayla clash with his instinct to protect her, especially when he realizes her life is in danger. But Kayla’s not looking for a savior—especially one who seems hell-bent on tempting her down a lethal path.

Rating: B

The Enforcer is the second book in HelenKay Dimon’s Games People Play series of romantic suspense novels, which feature heroes who supply skills and services that are perhaps not available from typical law-enforcement organisations; finding people who don’t want to be found, obtaining and using sensitive information and providing security and protection to those who are unable – or don’t want – to go through normal channels. As such, they often operate in that shady area outside the law, doing what needs to be done even though they might need to cross lines in order to do it.

In The Fixer, book one in the series, we met the enigmatic Wren, head of a company specialising in intelligence and information gathering, and who, years earlier, was one of a group of young men who looked to be headed in completely the wrong direction until they were ‘rescued’ by a man named Quint who insisted they accomplish something with their lives. In the course of his business, Wren often has occasion to call upon the services provided by Quint Enterprises, the security firm run by the gruff, taciturn Matthias Clarke. The men are friends – as far as men like them can ever be friends – and more importantly, Wren is one of the very few people that Matthias trusts absolutely.

Matthias had a troubled childhood, growing up in a series of foster homes which ranged from okay to terrible. He’s a loner, and his work is his life; he does his job, eats when he’s hungry, has sex when he has the urge – and he’s content with that. But some months earlier, and completely out of the blue, he was contacted by the birth mother who abandoned him, Mary Patterson, who also told him that he’d had a younger half-brother, Nick, who had been murdered seven years earlier and the case has never been solved. While Matthias is fully aware of Mary’s attempt to manipulate him by trying to send him on a guilt-trip, he nonetheless feels some sort of responsibility to the brother he never knew, and agrees to see what he can find out.

Seven years earlier, Kayla Roy was the sole survivor of a brutal multiple murder. She became a prime suspect in the killings in the early stages of the investigation, but in the absence of any real evidence, she was never charged. Still, she disappeared not long afterwards and has spent the last seven years on the run, never putting down roots or staying too long in any one place. Now, however, she is the closest thing to settled she’s been in all that time, in the small, seafront town of Annapolis, where she waits tables at the local café.

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

Wildfire (Fire #3) by Anne Stuart (audiobook) – Narrated by Jill Redfield

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

Her power-hungry husband takes pleasure in her pain, but she’s done playing the victim.

Three years ago, ex-operative Sophie Jordan made the mistake of falling in love—and marrying—her target. Now she’s paying for it tenfold. Her husband might be one of the sexiest men alive, but he’s also a psychopath. She’s been a virtual prisoner, and the time has come for retribution—and escape.

Undercover agent Malcolm Gunnison has his orders: get intel from Sophie’s arms-dealer husband, then kill him. He plans to get rid of her, too, if she gets in his way, but he’s unprepared when she gets under his skin instead. Whose side is she on? And what is she hiding behind those mesmerizing eyes?

Sophie vowed to never fall for another man again, but this sexy undercover agent is different. With danger mounting, can Malcolm and Sophie trust each other—and their growing passion—enough to get out of this operation alive?

Rating: Narration – B; Content – B-

Wildfire is the third in Anne Stuart’s current Fire series of romantic suspense novels which have kind of picked up where the Ice series left off and in which The Committee – the super-secret agency which acts to wipe out the bad guys and keep the world safe by any means necessary – is now working out of its new branch in the US.

Sophie Jordan, former CIA and State Department operative, joined the Committee a few years previously and was sent on a fairly routine surveillance mission while still undergoing her training. The subject of this mission was one Archer MacDonald, a ruthless, megalomaniac arms dealer who also happened to be one of the most gorgeous men on the planet. Against every instinct and every aspect of her training, Sophie fell for Archer and married him, so blinded by love that she didn’t discover his true nature until some months after the wedding. Three years on, Sophie has spent most of that time as a prisoner on an island off the coast of Florida that Archer owns – Isla Mordita – two of those years confined to her bed and a wheelchair following an “accident” which saw her shot in the back.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals

The Perfect Stranger (All the Missing Girls #2) by Megan Miranda

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Confronted by a restraining order and the threat of a lawsuit, failed journalist Leah Stevens needs to get out of Boston when she runs into an old friend, Emmy Grey, who has just left a troubled relationship. Emmy proposes they move to rural Pennsylvania, where Leah can get a teaching position and both women can start again. But their new start is threatened when a woman with an eerie resemblance to Leah is assaulted by the lake, and Emmy disappears days later.

Determined to find Emmy, Leah cooperates with Kyle Donovan, a handsome young police officer on the case. As they investigate her friend’s life for clues, Leah begins to wonder: did she ever really know Emmy at all? With no friends, family, or a digital footprint, the police begin to suspect that there is no Emmy Grey. Soon Leah’s credibility is at stake, and she is forced to revisit her past: the article that ruined her career. To save herself, Leah must uncover the truth about Emmy Grey—and along the way, confront her old demons, find out who she can really trust, and clear her own name.

Everyone in this rural Pennsylvanian town has something to hide—including Leah herself. How do you uncover the truth when you are busy hiding your own?

Rating: B

Megan Miranda’s The Perfect Stranger is billed as being a sequel to her highly successful All The Missing Girls – although as far as I can tell, there are no common characters or plot threads, unless one counts the fact that one of the characters in The Perfect Stranger is a “missing girl”! So if, like me, you haven’t read the earlier book, you won’t have any problems getting into this one, as it’s a standalone, and is a thoroughly enjoyable and intriguing read that asks some interesting questions. How well we can ever know another person? How honest and accurate are our self-perceptions? Just how far would you go for a friend who’d done a lot for you?

Leah Stevens worked as a journalist in Boston until a story blew up in her face. She had been investigating the deaths – seemingly suicides – of four young college students which she was convinced were murders, but when she refused to reveal a key source, she was slapped with a restraining order and the paper threatened with a lawsuit. Betrayed – it was her boyfriend who tipped off their editor – with no job and nowhere to go, Leah is relieved when she runs into Emmy Grey, someone she’d lived with shortly after leaving college some eight years ago.

Over several drinks at Emmy’s place, Leah gathers that her friend has just come out of a bad relationship and is keen to get out of Boston, too, so they stick a pin in a map and settle on Western Pennsylvania as the place they can both make a fresh start. Leah gets a job as a school teacher (and I have to say, the author’s comments about various aspects of the profession struck a real chord with me!) while Emmy drifts about, cleaning houses, working at a local motel… and because their schedules are so different, with Emmy often coming home as Leah is going out, they rarely see each other. Even so, Leah gets the impression that all is not well with her friend; she’s tense and on edge and it’s like she’s waiting for the other shoe to drop.

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

Wildfire (Fire #3) by Anne Stuart

wildfire

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Her power-hungry husband takes pleasure in her pain, but she’s done playing the victim.

Three years ago, ex-operative Sophie Jordan made the mistake of falling in love—and marrying—her target. Now she’s paying for it tenfold. Her husband might be one of the sexiest men alive, but he’s also a psychopath. She’s been a virtual prisoner, and the time has come for retribution—and escape.

Undercover agent Malcolm Gunnison has his orders: get intel from Sophie’s arms-dealer husband, then kill him. He plans to get rid of her, too, if she gets in his way, but he’s unprepared when she gets under his skin instead. Whose side is she on? And what is she hiding behind those mesmerizing eyes?

Sophie vowed to never fall for another man again, but this sexy undercover agent is different. With danger mounting, can Malcolm and Sophie trust each other—and their growing passion—enough to get out of this operation alive?

Rating: B-

Any long-time romance reader probably has a favourite type of hero.  Protective alphas, arrogant arseholes, smooth spies and men of action… and then there are Anne Stuart heroes, who, as anyone familiar with her work will know, are a mixture of all the above with the aresholery often dialled up to the max.  But you know what?  They’re my blind spot.  They’re so full of testosterone, over-the-top masculine and fiercely protective of their women (albeit not quite at caveman levels) that they’re almost caricatures… but I still don’t care – I love ‘em.

The big saving grace is probably that your Anne Stuart alpha-hole hero isn’t a Neanderthal. He’s  highly-intelligent, well-educated, frighteningly competent, seriously hot – and ultimately redeemable.   Yes, any sane woman would probably run a mile in the opposite direction if she met one, but fortunately, this is highly stylised fiction, and Ms. Stuart always manages to redeem these ruthless men admirably.  But I can accept that her particular brand of gamma hero is an acquired taste, and if those types of characters aren’t for you, then I’m not likely to persuade you otherwise.

But for those of us who do drink this particular brand of Kool-Aid, Malcolm Gunnison, the hero of Wildfire – the third in the author’s current Fire series – is another in a long line of those guilty-pleasure heroes we love to hate.  Mal is sent by the Committee  – a covert, international organization that paid no attention to legal or moral implications in its quest to make the world a safer place – to the Caribbean island of Isla Mordita to meet with Archer MacDonald, international arms and drug dealer, and the man behind the development of a new biological agent, RU48 (also known as Pixiedust!) which is unlike any chemical weapon previously developed.  Mal’s cover as an ex-Committee agent now acting as the middle-man for a potential buyer works perfectly to convince Archer that he’s dealing with a man every bit as dangerous as himself.

Mal’s job is to find out everything he can about the weapon, kill Archer and get out – and it’s up to him whether he gets the man’s wife out with him or leaves her there.  A former CIA and State Department agent, Sophie Jordan was in the early stages of her Committee training when she was made part of a team sent to undertake surveillance on Archer and made the mistake of falling in love with and marrying him – only to discover, too late, that the man was a ruthless psychopath.  When Archer discovered she had been a Committee agent, he ordered her murder.  Sophie narrowly escaped death, but the bullet damaged her spine and for the past two years, she has been confined to a wheelchair, a literal prisoner on the island subject to the not so tender mercies of her husband, who takes delight in playing psychological games, and abusing her both emotionally and physically.  But a year ago, she began to regain the use of her legs, and without anyone knowing, has been building her strength and training for the day when she will kill Archer and get the hell outta Dodge.

When Archer insists she join him in welcoming their latest guest to the island, Sophie is not at all prepared for the reaction Malcolm Gunnison elicits in her.  Since her accident, she has maintained the fiction of being desperately in love with her husband, who no longer has any use for her and enjoys taunting her about her lack of sexual appeal.  He has brought several attractive men to the island and paraded them in front of her trying to provoke a reaction, but she has remained completely unmoved – until now.  Even so, it’s clear that Gunnison is just as much of a ruthless, murderous bastard as her husband, and she has no intention of allowing herself to be diverted from her purpose.

The suspense plot is full of twists and turns, and there’s no question that Ms. Stuart really knows how to ramp up the tension; all in all I found Wildfire a hard book to put down. The characters are engaged in an intense and potentially deadly game of cat-and-mouse with Mal and Archer circling around each other, assessing and trying to get the upper hand, even as Mal and Sophie are doing much the same thing as they try to work out whether they can trust each other or not.  The sexual chemistry between them is intense, the sex scenes are steamy and Mal and Sophie are undoubtedly in lust with each other, but the idea that a romantic relationship could have developed between them is harder to buy into.  Sophie has been isolated for the past two years, suffered a serious trauma and has been subject to a sadistic, manipulative man.  Yes, her training as an operative would have heightened her natural survival instincts and taught her self-reliance, but I couldn’t help thinking that given her circumstances, she might have fallen for anyone who had supported her and shown her that she wasn’t on her own anymore.  I also found it difficult to believe that Sophie – who is frequently described as tough, intelligent and highly competent – could have been so gullible as to have dismissed everything she’d learned about Archer during her training and fallen so easily and completely for him.  Much mention is made of the fact that she was inexperienced when she was sent on that fateful mission, but she worked for the security services for a number of years before being recruited by the Committee, and that level of naïveté just doesn’t ring true.  On the positive side, though, I admired her sheer guts and determination in the face of such overwhelming odds.  She’s under no illusions now, and her hatred of Archer is so visceral that the reader can actually feel it.

And Mal … well, he’s a pretty stereotypical Stuart hero – dangerous, frighteningly competent and utterly ruthless when called for – but that’s a potent and sexy combination that never seems to get old, and I’m not complaining.

While this is the third in a series, it’s not absolutely necessary to have read the previous two books before starting this one; I think they can probably be read in any order.  Even taking into account the drawbacks I’ve mentioned, Wildfire is still a fast-paced, edgy page-turner that kept me engrossed from start to finish.  I’m sure fans of Ms. Stuart and her unique, dark brand of romantic suspense will enjoy it.

Blindsided (Men of Steele #3) by Gwen Hernandez

blindsidedThis title may be purchased from Amazon.

SHE’S RUNNING FOR HER LIFE
Framed for espionage, reformed hacker Valerie Sanchez has no choice but to run. Worse, when the proof of her innocence is destroyed, things turn deadly. Can she trust the sexy terrorist hunter who mysteriously turns up to protect her, or is he the real threat?

HE’S HOT ON HER TRAIL
Former Marine sniper Scott Kramer’s job was supposed to be easy. Follow the hot computer geek who stole plans for classified weapons until she meets her buyer, then let law enforcement take over. But when Valerie becomes an assassin’s target, Scott’s gut says she’s innocent. Now, he must risk his life—and his heart—to keep her safe.

Rating: B

New-to-me author Gwen Hernandez has crafted a tightly plotted page-turner in Blindsided, the third book in her Men of Steele series.  The heroes are all ex-military men who now work for Kurt Steele’s  security firm, and even though this is the third in the series and some characters from the other books are referenced or make brief appearances, it works perfectly well as a standalone.

Valerie Sanchez is the daughter of an infamous ‘black hat’ hacker (i.e, someone who hacks into computer systems with criminal intent) but although she worked alongside her Papá when younger, she now works for Aggressor International – a government funded organisation that hunts down terrorists – as one of their team of ‘white hat’ hackers, people employed to identify and fix vulnerabilities and security holes in the computer systems of their clients.  She’s an unashamed geek who loves her job and her current assignment is to hack into the servers of Westgate Defence Systems to find and report on any weaknesses in their online security.  With her partner, Jay Suresh, she has finally managed to find a way in, but before she can file her report, she discovers something odd; all the companies she has been employed to hack over the past few months suffered security breaches following her investigations.  Believing that this must mean the clients have not undertaken the security measures outlined in her various reports, she makes her concerns known to her boss, Duncan Hollowell.

Former marine sniper Scott Kramer, a member of the Steele Security team, has gone undercover as a new employee at Aggressor in order to undertake surveillance on a staff member suspected of stealing information from the company.  The few times he’s spoken to Valerie Sanchez, she’s seemed flustered and tongue-tied; she might be a bit geeky but his gut is telling him that this woman isn’t guilty of anything.  So he’s astonished when Hollowell tells him she’s downloaded several files relating to classified weapons systems and tells him to keep her under surveillance until the FBI team arrives to arrest her.

Valerie soon realises she’s been set up, but before she can make a run for it, the FBI is banging on her door.  She’s being escorted to a car when shots ring out – one of the agents is hit and someone screams at Valerie to run.  Watching all this, Scott heads after her, but does nothing to stop her getting away.

A couple of weeks later, and Scott has followed Valerie to Zachari, CA.  She hasn’t dared contact anyone, but is hoping she can meet up with Jay, as he’s the only one who can prove that they were actually assigned to work on Westgate’s systems and help her to clear her name.  She tracks him down at a local bar and he agrees – reluctantly – to help her, but as he leaves, he’s gunned down outside by a man Scott recognises as one of the FBI agents sent to arrest Valerie.

Realising that there is more going on than he knows, and because his gut is telling him that something isn’t right, Scott gets Valerie away. She doesn’t trust him and he doesn’t trust her, but it soon becomes clear that Valerie isn’t the only one of them to have been set up;  Scott has been named as the sniper-accomplice who helped Valerie escape and there’s nothing for it but for them both to run until they can work out exactly what’s going on and how they can fix it.  Fortunately for Scott, his friends at Steele have his back and are prepared to do what they can, but ultimately, it’s down to Valerie’s computer skills and his more traditional physical and tactical ones to keep them alive while staying one step ahead of the people hunting them.

Blindsided is a thoroughly entertaining, fast-paced romantic thriller that makes excellent use of the cyber-crime plotline, although I confess I often felt like Scott when all the technical stuff went right over my head!  (Fortunately, there isn’t too much of it). The attraction between Valerie and Scott builds believably and at a good pace, and they are well-rounded characters whose flaws and insecurities make them seem that much more real and easy to relate to.  They come from very different backgrounds, but neither of them have had it easy and I liked the way that the gradual revelation of their pasts leads to a deeper understanding between them and brings them closer together.  Valerie’s Dad was murdered in front of her, and his lover, her Papá, went to prison for fraud, while Scott grew up with an abusive father who constantly belittled him and insisted Scott was a runt who would never amount to anything.   It’s a refreshing change in this particular sub- genre to discover a hero who isn’t your typical big, macho, muscle-bound ex-military type.  Scott is good-looking, he’s ripped and he’s hot, but he’s five-nine and wiry; he still suffers from a bit of an inferiority complex about his height and slight build which isn’t helped by the scars he now bears as the result of serious injuries incurred while on active duty.  And while Valerie has beauty to go with her brains, she’s spent most of her working life hiding it behind geeky classes and baggy clothes because as a woman in a very male oriented profession, she wants to be appreciated for her brains and not her boobs.

This is the first book I’ve read by Gwen Hernandez, but it won’t be the last.  The first book in the series, Blind Fury is now waiting for me on my Kindle, and I will certainly be checking out the other books in this series as and when they come out.

The Dollmaker (Forgotten Files #2) by Mary Burton (audiobook) – Narrated by Christina Traister

dollmaker-audio

Dr. Tessa McGowan had never seen anything quite like it. But the mutilated bodies on her exam table tell a stunningly macabre tale: someone with a twisted mind is kidnapping women and altering their faces to resemble real, life-size dolls. As a forensic pathologist, it’s her job to aid the agent leading the case – even if that agent is her estranged husband.

Twelve years ago an unspeakable tragedy destroyed Dakota Sharp’s world. Haunted by the ghosts of his past, he’s devoted himself to capturing killers. His only regret is that it cost him Tessa. Now, as the Dollmaker case brings them together – and raises his suspicions that he’s crossed paths with this deranged psychopath before – they may just have their second chance. But it seems Dakota’s not the only one who wants to make Tessa his own…

She may be the Dollmaker’s next target, but Tessa has no intention of winding up as another toy on his shelf. Can she and Dakota stop this ghastly killer before his next deadly playdate?

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – B+

The Dollmaker is the second book in Mary Burton’s The Forgotten Files series, but it works perfectly well as a standalone. It’s my first time listening to a book by this author, and it definitely won’t be my last, as the mystery is tightly-plotted and suspenseful and the main characters, while perhaps somewhat stereotypical, are nonetheless well-drawn and likeable. The mystery element of the book is very much to the fore, although there is also a second-chance romance between Agent Dakota Sharp of the Virginia State Police and his estranged wife, pathologist Dr. Tessa McGowan, brewing in the background.

While attending the funeral of his step-father, Roger, to whom he wasn’t close, Dakota Sharp is approached by Douglas Knox, the former local police chief who investigated the death of Sharp’s half-sister, Kara, some twelve years ago. The cause of death was an overdose, but Roger was never convinced of that and spent the last decade or so trying to prove she was murdered. Knox now tells Sharp that there may have been more to Kara’s death and offers to send him his case files. Sharp is sceptical, but, to humour the old man, accepts the offer and asks a colleague to look over them, feeling he’s too close to events to do so himself.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

At Close Range (Tracers #11) by Laura Griffin

at-close-range

This title may be purchased from Amazon

When a lakeside tryst ends in a double murder, police detective Daniele Harper arrives on the scene determined to get answers. Clues are everywhere, but nothing adds up. Dani turns to the Delphi Center crime lab for help, but soon regrets it when her secret attraction to their chief firearms examiner threatens to distract her from the most important case of her career.

As a ballistics expert and former Navy SEAL, Scott Black knows firearms, and he knows he can help Dani unravel her case. Scott has managed to hide his interest in his best friend’s younger sister for years, but when her investigation brings them together, the sparks between them quickly get out of control. Scott resolves to keep his hands off Dani and his eyes on the goal—identifying a killer. But when that killer zeroes in on Dani, all bets are off. There isn’t a line Scott won’t cross to convince Dani to trust him so that he can help her take down a ruthless murderer who has her in his sights.

Rating: B+

Although At Close Range is the eleventh book in Laura Griffin’s Tracers series, I didn’t feel as though I’d missed out by not having read the previous ten books.  Information about the Tracers themselves and the highly advanced forensic facility at which they work is disseminated quickly and without getting bogged down in too much detail; and even though some characters from the earlier novels make appearances, they are here as secondary characters and there’s no overlap of their stories with this one.

The plot is fast-moving and complex, with plenty of action and suspense and a focus on a particular area of science which is very relevant, giving the story a really up-to-the-minute feel.  But not everything is flashy and hi-tech; the plotlines and characteristics are very strongly grounded in reality – even for a Brit whose knowledge of the US justice system comes primarily from watching the various police procedurals which grace our TV screens ;).

Recently-minted Detective Daniele (Dani) Harper is both pleased and wary when she is assigned as lead detective on the case of the double homicide of a college professor and the young woman with whom he was having an affair.  While it’s flattering that her boss, Ric Santos, feels she’s up to the job, the fact that the victims were both on staff at the local university means the case is going to attract a lot of media attention, and deep down, Dani is worried that she’s not ready to take on a leadership role.  But she’s nothing if not tenacious so she grits her teeth and throws herself into the investigation, determined not to let Ric down and to show that she – the daughter of a cop and sister of a prosecutor with the DA’s office – has earned her place through dint of sheer hard work and not because of her family connections.

Firearms and ballistics expert Scott Black joined the Tracers – the forensic team at the Delphi Center – when a knee injury forced him to retire from his work as a Navy SEAL. He and Dani have known each other for around fifteen years owing to his friendships with her brothers, so he’s always treated her like his best friend’s kid sister.  But that changed a few months earlier when they shared a drunken New Year’s Eve kiss, and things have been awkward between them ever since.  Dani has fancied Scott for years, but never thought anything would come of it – and while he is equally attracted to her, according to the unwritten code of guy friendship, his friend’s little sister is strictly off limits.

When Scott arrives at the crime scene, Dani isn’t sure whether to be relieved or dismayed.  She knows he’s the best at what he does, but doesn’t want the feelings she still harbours for him to get in the way of their working together.  Worse, it’s obvious right from the start that this is going to be a tough case.  The crime scene is surprisingly unhelpful; the female victim had no ID or phone – or none that was found – and the bullets and shell-casings retrieved are useless.  Good old-fashioned policing reveals the dead woman to have been Tessa Lovett, research assistant to James Ayres, professor of microbiology, and the woman with whom he’d been having an affair for quite some time.  Moreover, both victims had previously worked together in New Mexico, and both had recently relocated to San Marco – to a less prestigious university – and taken pay cuts, neither of which makes sense.

The ante is well and truly upped when Dani’s house is broken into late at night and her ID and laptop are stolen.  She gives chase but is unable to catch up with the interloper – and it becomes even more evident that she’s dealing with something other than a simple crime of passion perpetrated against an adulterous husband.  Events take an even more surprising turn when Scott is implicated in the crime and he is suspended from duty.  Whoever is behind the murders has planned meticulously, always seeming to be one step ahead of Dani in a bewildering game of cat and mouse as each lead she uncovers seems doomed to be cut off before she can pursue it.  And although Scott is officially off the case, he’ll be damned before he leaves the task of proving his innocence to someone else, even someone he trusts as much as Dani.  But his determination to protect her as well as to find out who has framed him risks the integrity of the evidence and the entire case; and when the perpetrators put them firmly in the firing line, their relationship is tested even as the ever-present attraction between them ignites into something neither is quite sure how to handle.

The suspense story is extremely well-put together, with lots of unforeseeable twists and turns and moments of high-octane drama, and I found myself on the edge of my seat several times.  Ms. Griffin really knows how to pile on the tension without taking things too far; as an example, there’s a brilliant set-piece around the middle of the book which is a terrific example of how to write a heroes-in-peril action scene, and in which the descriptions and imagery are so vivid that it was like I was watching a movie in my head.

The romance between Scott and Dani is well done, too, although it’s secondary to the suspense plot.  The pair has known each other for years, so their unacknowledged mutual attraction is of fairly long standing and the chemistry between them is pretty intense.  Since he came back from Afghanistan, Scott’s only relationships have been of the one-night variety, and even though he wants Dani, he tries to hold back, believing she deserves better than him.  His mixed signals – one minute he’s kissing her, the next he’s keeping his distance – and his insistence on pursuing his own investigation infuriate the hell out of Dani, but she also knows there’s no-one else she’d rather have watching her back.  They circle around each other warily, neither of them wanting to admit to anything they can’t pull back from, but as the danger intensifies, it becomes impossible for them to go on denying that there’s more between them than sexual attraction.

At Close Range is an exciting, action-packed story that certainly won’t be the last I’ll read by Laura Griffin.  The plot is well-constructed and the resolution is audacious but plausible with cleverly planted clues; and the two principals are strongly characterised and well-matched.  Because the novels are standalones, it’s the sort of series one can dip in and out of, so I’ll definitely be revisiting the team at the Delphi Center in the not too distant future.