Into the Fire, by Suzanne Brockmann

>> Sunday, February 08, 2009

TITLE: Into the Fire
AUTHOR: Suzanne Brockmann

PAGES: 608
PUBLISHER: Ballantine

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: Romantic suspense
SERIES: Yes, and a loooong-running one. This is book 13 in the Troubleshooters series.

REASON FOR READING: Autoread author, although I've learned to wait and then read a few books together, once I'm sure there won't be any emotional cliffhangers in the last one I've got ;-)

Vinh Murphy–ex-Marine and onetime operative for the elite security firm Troubleshooters Incorporated–has been MIA ever since his wife, Angelina, was caught in a crossfire and killed during what should have been a routine bodyguard assignment. Overcome with grief, Murphy blames the neo-Nazi group known as the Freedom Network for her death. Now, years later, Freedom Network leader Tim Ebersole has been murdered–and the FBI suspects Murphy may have pulled the trigger. To prevent further bloodshed, Murphy’s friends at Troubleshooters scramble to find him and convince him to surrender peacefully.

Murphy himself can’t be sure what he did or didn’t do during the years he spent mourning and lost in an alcohol-induced fog. He does know he occasionally sought solace from Hannah Whitfield, a former police officer and the very friend who’d introduced him to his beloved late wife.

But Hannah, still grappling with the deafness that resulted from an injury sustained while on duty, was fighting her own battles. For years Hannah had feelings for Murphy, and one painful night their suffering brought them together in a way neither expected–and both regretted.

Murphy is ready to rejoin the living. As always, he finds himself knocking on Hannah’s door, and as always, his longtime friend welcomes him back into her home. Yet even as Murphy slowly rebuilds his splintered life, he continues to fight his growing feelings for Hannah.

Then he learns of Ebersole’s murder and comes to believe that the Freedom Network has targeted him–and Hannah–to avenge their leader’s death to violence. Now Murphy must face the terrifying prospect of losing another woman he loves.

As the Troubleshooters desperately search for him, Murphy races toward a deadly confrontation with the Freedom Network and ultimate choice: surrender his life in hopes that Hannah will be spared, or risk everything to salvage whatever future they may have together.
MY THOUGHTS: As always, Brockmann manages to surprise. Heh, I really shouldn't have been surprised to be surprised, I suppose.

When I heard that this book starred Vinh Murphy, whom we'd last seen falling to pieces after the violent death of his wife in Hot Target, and his and Angelina's best friend, who'd been in love with him forever, I kind of formed an idea of what the story would be like. Given that all we'd heard from Murphy in the intervening books indicated that he'd been drinking himself to death, because Angelina's death meant that he might as well be dead, I expected something involving him fighting both to stay sober and his feelings for Hannah, thinking he must not betray Angelina. And same for Hannah, she'd feel terribly guilty about being with Vinh, with Angelina dead. Only at the end would they have the epiphany: "Angelina would want us to be happy".

Well, I didn't get that. At all. Not 50 pages into the book, Murphy is sober, having gone through rehab (which did feel a bit sudden), and neither he nor Hannah need the epiphany, because for both, betraying Angelina is just not an issue. They know she'd want them to go for it and not want Murphy to bury himself with her. Of course, Vinh and Hanna are not completely comfortable with their feelings for each other, but hey, we do need some internal conflict to last through the book, don't we?

Now, as happy as I was that things weren't going in the expected, predictable direction, the main romance wasn't the most gripping one ever. I think Hannah was the problem here. I did like what I saw of her. She seemed strong and courageous and smart, and I admired the way she was dealing with her recent deafness. But here's the thing: there just wasn't enough there for me to feel I knew her, not enough to really understand who she was. There seemed to be tonnes and tonnes of backstory between her and Vinh, and so much stuff relating to how she had adapted to her deafness, but we didn't get to see much of that. You know what if felt like? Like Brockmann had actually written that, and then had to edit big chunks out of the beginning of the book. And hey, I suppose it's possible, since the book was pretty long. But anyway, whether that was the case or not, I'm afraid that when a Hannah/Vinh relationship scene started, I enjoyed it well enough, but stilll kind of wished a little bit that we would continue with whatever previous scene I had been reading... usually one about Izzy and Eden.

And that was probably the most surprising thing: how much I absolutely loved the secondary romance. Izzy's asshole quotient had been way too high in previous books (fortunately, it was toned down drastically here), and a guy in his late 20s with an 18 year old? Ick. Usually. Not here, though. Here it felt yummy. I loved Eden, and considering the things she'd had to get over in her life, she felt plenty mature enough (and let's face it, Izzy's quite immature for his age, himself). Their relationship was not quite concluded by the end of the book, and I'm looking forward to see how things will turn out.

Finally, in the relationships area, there's a bit of Sophia and Dave. I'll write more about them when I review Dark of Night (which I'm reading right now), but for now, I'll just say: yay! And knowing who ends up with whom, plenty of clues here of what's going to happen.

The suspense? Interesting and gripping. The hatemongering cult leader Murphy blames for inspiring (pretty much ordering, really) Angelina's murder has been murdered, himself, and Murphy is suspected. Problem is, he hadn't been in rehab yet at the time when the murder happened, so that whole period is a blur for him. For all he knows, he could have done it. So he and Hannah need to track his movements and see if he did it or not. Of course, things turn out to be a lot more complicated soon enough.

MY GRADE: A B+. Solid, and if I'd been more into the main romance, it would have gone into A territory.


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