Breaking Point, by Suzanne Brockmann

>> Friday, November 03, 2006

Suzanne Brockmann's Breaking Point finally gives us a conclusion to the story of Max and Gina, who we met in book # 3 of the Troubleshooters series, Over The Edge. Breaking Point is book # 9, so I guess you could say their story was stretched out quite a bit!

As commander of the nation's most elite FBI counterterrorism unit, agent Max Bhagat leads by hard-driving example: pushing himself to the limit and beyond, taking no excuses, and putting absolutely nothing ahead of his work. That includes his deep feelings for Gina Vitagliano, the woman who won his admiration and his heart with her courage under fire. But when the shocking news reaches him that Gina has been killed in a terrorist bombing, nothing can keep Max from making a full investigation—and retribution—his top priority.

At the scene of the attack, however, Max gets an even bigger shock. Gina is still very much alive—but facing a fate even worse than death. Along with Molly Anderson, a fellow overseas relief worker, Gina has fallen into the hands of a killer who is bent on using both women to bait a deadly trap. His quarry? Grady Morant, a.k.a "Jones," a notorious ex-Special Forces operative turned smuggler who made some very deadly enemies in the jungles of Southeast Asia . . . and has been running ever since. But with Molly's life on the line, Jones is willing to forfeit his own to save the woman he loves.

Together with Max's top agent Jules Cassidy as their only backup, the unlikely allies plunge into a global hot zone of violence and corruption to make a deal with the devil. Not even Jones knows which ghosts from his past want him dead. But there's one thing he's sure of--there's very little his bloodthirsty enemies aren't willing to do.
When Gone Too Far, Sam and Alyssa's book, came out, I fell on it the minute it got here and practically devoured it. I'd been anxiously waiting for it for months. I get the feeling Brockmann was trying to make Max and Gina the new Sam and Alyssa, but that never really gelled for me. I was able to wait for the pb of Breaking Point without much trouble, and I even took a while to start it once I got it. I guess this couple kind of lost me with all the back and forth and back and forth and back again and forth again they did in Gone Too Far.

Well, no matter. I loved their book anyway. Just what is it with Brockmann that she can make me love everything she writes? What happened to me with this book was kind of weird, actually. While I read it and right after I finished it, I was thinking well, it's nice enough, nothing spectacular but nice. But now that I've started writing my review, I've come to realize that I enjoyed it a lot more than a simply "nice" book would warrant. I keep thinking of things I thought were wonderfully done and about great bits of character development. I was originally thinking a B when I first started writing, but I'm going to go with a B+ now.

Brockmann's books in this series are well known for the way the focus jumps between different storylines. This is not exactly the case in BP (we've got only a main storyline and a secondary, which for the most part develops right along the primary), but the first half of the book certainly has a similar feel to the series earlier books.

What Brockmann does here is jump around in time, rather than between stories. Some of the chapters are from the present day, when Max receives the news that Gina has died in a terrorist bombing in Germany and goes to recover the body, receiving a huge shock when he realizes the body with Gina's ID isn't Gina, and that she's probably still alive somewhere.

We also get chapters from a few months before that, set in the AIDS camp in Kenya, where Gina went after she left Max. In those chapters, we mostly see the secondary storyline, which features our old friends Molly and Jones, from Out of Control. We see Jones show up under a fake name and be reunited with Molly after many years apart, with Gina looking on and helping.

Finally, we get chapters from about a year before that, when Max is recovering from being shot (in Gone Too Far, if I remember correctly), and finally succeeds in driving Gina away, after some abortive starts to a relationship.

It took a bit to get used to, but when at around the halfway point the jumping around stopped and we stuck with the present day action, which quickly turned into a kidnapping and rescue (turns out someone has taken Gina and Molly to try and trade them for Jones, and Max, Jones and Jules go after them alone, because all the SEALs and the people from Troubleshooters are busy foiling a huge terrorist plot), I realized I had been actually enjoying it very much.

I especially loved the bits in the recovery centre, with Gina vigorously pursuing Max (and when I say vigorously, I mean it. The pursuing she did in GTF is nothing compared to the way she went after him here) and Max resisting. The main reason Max and Gina's story tired me in GTF was that I wanted to slap Max, because I just didn't understand why he was resisting so much. It felt like stupid, forced conflict. Well, here Brockmann made me understand Max and where exactly those reactions were coming from, and it made sense. Kind of with Sam and Alyssa's story... I never understood Sam's insistence on marrying Mary Lou until I saw his history in GTF.

When we get to the point when the story continues all in the present day, the tone changes a bit and the book turns into a more action-driven story. For a while this bored me (as well as Brockmann writes breakneck-speed action, it's just not something I enjoy), but that was just a short section. When our two couples get trapped inside a bunker-type building and under siege, there are plenty of the mushy parts and character development I prefer. The way Max and Gina finally, finally get together completely almost put tears in my eyes.

In the best Brockmann tradition, the secondary storyline was great, too. I had loved Molly and Jones in OOC, and I enjoyed seeing their relationship get somewhere. Jones is one of Brockmann's best characters, IMO, and his history is fascinating stuff. And Molly is great. I especially loved how she is, as Brockmann puts it, a crunchy-granola Unicef mama woman, and this is still incredibly sexy to the younger Jones.

Interestingly, I thought the story's weak point was Jules. I love Jules, and his is the story I most want Brockmann to write, but the Jules here wasn't the Jules I know and love. Yes, the man was never afraid to show his gayness in public, but here he didn't sound gay, he sounded like my great-aunt, with the way he called everyone "sweetie". I also thought most of the touchy-feely stuff he kept spouting was completely inappropriate. There was one conversation with Max, especially, when they were keeping watch on the house in Indonesia where Gina and Molly were being kept prisoners, that was surreal, with the guy going on about Max having to give permission to his inner child to come out and play and crap like that. WTF?

The good part about having waited so long for this book is that the next one, Into the Storm is already out. Thanks to the 100% micropay rebate at Fictionwise, it's already in my virtual TBR, so I might read it soon. I'm interested in seeing where Brockmann is going now. This one felt almost like an ending to the original Troubleshooters' series.


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