Airport Ranger volunteer Stacy Broussard expected a peaceful Saturday morning ride around the perimeter of Houston’s airport. What she encounters instead is a brutal homicide and a baffling mystery. Next to the body is an injured dog, the dead man’s motorcycle, and a drone armed with a laser capable of taking down a 747.
Though FBI Special Agent Alex LeBlanc sees a clear-cut case of terrorism, his past has taught him to be suspicious of everyone, even witnesses. Even bleeding-heart veterinarians like Stacy. But when her gruesome discovery is only the first in a string of incidences that throw her life into a tailspin, Alex begins to wonder if Stacy was targeted. As a health emergency endangers Stacy’s community, and the task force pulls in leads from all directions, Alex and Stacy must work together to prevent another deadly encounter.
“Alex.” She touched her throat. “I’m waist-deep in a horrible crime.”
He studied her color-stricken face.
“Can you arrest him?”
“Only question him. It’s not against the law to use a pseudonym, capitalize on gossip, or pay cash for property.”
“But he has rights too. Stacy, I promise this will soon be behind you.”
She saw a hint of interest in his gaze that shook her. “You don’t have to stay.”
“But the movie is supposed to be one of Whitt’s favorites.”
“Oh, he primed you.” She pressed her lips together, a bit nervous to be alone with him even with Whitt there. But she wanted to know him better.
He took a long drink of his coffee. “So you hear it from me first, earlier this week Ric and I talked to the manager of the Aldine Westfield Stables. Said his name was Chet. He gave us the tour.”
She paused, a surge of anger rising from the soles of her feet. “I thought I’d been cleared?”
“You have. Every detail of Saturday’s case has to be visited. Nothing personal, okay?”
She sensed her face growing hot. “Learn anything new?”
He slowly nodded. “The members-only section of the airport ranger website isn’t secure.”
“Does it matter?”
“Only when a hacker can determine when and where a volunteer is riding and a man ends up dead. Add the quadcopter piece.”
He’d made his point. “I’ll insist stricter security measures are used. I’m an officer for the group. Is the investigation headed toward interviewing all the airport rangers?” Sarcasm laced her words, and she didn’t apologize for it.
“We want to talk to a few. By the way, I saw you’re on the schedule tomorrow.”
“Mind if I join you? Chet said he’d have a gentle horse for me to ride.”
She should have known Alex had his bases covered. “With two other women?”
“I’ve already talked to them, and they said I was welcome. I have their coffee preferences so I won’t come empty-handed.”
“C’est tout finis.”
“That’s it. You’re finished?” He translated her Cajun and laughed. “Do you mean I’m irresistible?”
The back door opened and shut. “Hey, you two. A movie is calling our name,” Whitt said. “And we have brownies and ice cream for dessert.”
So much she wanted to know about what the agents had discovered, but she couldn’t ask with Whitt privy to every word. What more had Alex uncovered about Lynx Connor?
Tomorrow she’d probe deeper.
Sunday she’d rest.
Monday she’d do her part in stopping those who were spreading lies about their water.
Tuesday she had an appointment with Mr. Nardell to go over the court details.
Wednesday was the hearing. Then she’d move on to whatever was going to blindside her next.
To be honest, it felt like I trudged my way through this book. The plot took a long time to get going, despite the homicide encountered in the first pages, and although things picked up in the second half of the book, it was still weighed down by writing that felt flat and characters who often seemed wooden.
Stacy Broussard’s home and vet clinic are located in a run-down and fairly undesirable neighbourhood in Houston, and there’s not much to say about her except that she’s Cajun, and she’s applying for custody of Whitt McMann – a twelve-year-old genius who ostensibly lives across the road with his abusive parents, but who actually spends more time with Stacy at the clinic and her home, often spending the night on her couch.
Whitt is a point-of-view character in his own right, and his story not only tugs at the heartstrings, but becomes closely entwined with the investigation. But I had trouble remembering that he was only twelve. Most of the time, he spoke and behaved like a well-brought up late-teen – just with some weighty emotional baggage and a few big words thrown in (and not always convincingly). I never really got a sense of the child-like aspects of his character – emotional or otherwise.
Alex LeBlanc is also Cajun, and from the beginning he alludes to a case where he let his emotions get involved only to have it come back to bite him; hence his caution when he finds himself attracted to Stacy. I expected that working through this would be part of his personal journey, but apart from being mentioned in passing several times, it gets relegated to a couple of sentences in the wrap-up epilogue.
He and his partner Ric have a good working relationship, but much of their supposed banter came across as wooden – something I could say about a lot of the dialogue in the book. The pacing and rhythm often felt off; sometimes abrupt or moving too quickly, as though the characters were just reading through their lines deadpan; sometimes suffering for lack of action beats – particularly ones that conveyed some kind of emotional response to the conversation. When we did get the characters’ actions or reactions we were often told rather than shown and sometimes it was just plain ‘on the nose’. It was a combination of things, really, but the end result was it rarely seemed to read smoothly.
The romance wasn’t terribly inspiring either. If I was going to pick a word to describe it, it would be ‘pragmatic’. I’m not one for cheesy romance clichés like tingles and heart flutterings, but Stacy and Alex’s interactions felt devoid of any chemistry at all – emotional or physical. I can appreciate that Alex was restrained in his interactions by his past experience, but I would have liked to feel the tension in that restraint.
One thing this novel did have going for it was an original plot. The homicide investigation morphed into a case of bioterrorism that threatened the lives of some of the characters, and the investigation took something of a convoluted path to get to the bottom of it all. But there wasn’t a lot of excitement along that path; at least, not until much later in the novel. I didn’t get that ‘what’s going to happen next?’ anticipation until more than halfway through the novel.
I guess you could say this one just didn’t work for me, and in view of that fact, I don’t think I’ll be reading the rest of the series.
I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
Release date: 1 August 2016
Publisher: Tyndale House
Author’s website: http://www.diannmills.com/