Saturday, October 4, 2008

Into The Fire by Suzanne Brockmann *****

This is book 13 in Brockmann's Troubleshooter series, and features Vinh Murphy as hero. Vinh's father is African American, his mother Vietnamese - he's 6'5" and a former SEAL (I think - I may have this part mixed up) who did some work with Tom Paoletti's Troubleshooters in earlier books. His wife Angelina was killed in the crossfire in an earlier book, and he's spent the years since in an alcoholic stupor, unemployed and basically homeless in the sense of having no place to go, to root, to be. Every few months or so he drops in to visit Hannah, who was Angelina's best friend. Hannah introduced Murphy to Angelina, and was also a good friend to him. Hannah was a police officer who injured her leg and lost her hearing in a car accident in the years since Angelina's death, and lives alone in one of 2 remote cabins owned by her uncle, one in Alaska, one in California.

The shooter in Angelina's death (I think it was in Hot Target) was a member of The Freedom Network, a seriously nutcase rightwing white supremacist group holed up in a complex in California, and Murphy has wanted to murder the leader of the group ever since. So when the leader is found dead, having been killed by a sniper, the Troubleshooters get wind of the MO and try to find Murphy before the FBI does so they can help him, whether he did or did not do it. Apparently Murphy doesn't know if he did - there are holes in his memory around the time of the shooting. He and Hannah try to get into the compound to see if he can resurrect his whereabouts, see if maybe he can remember having been there.

Meanwhile, Dan "Gilligan" Gilman's sister Eden shows up, and runs into Irving "Izzy" Zanella at the Bug, looking for Dan. It's the eve of her 18th birthday, and she's been missing for 3 months - she ran away from her mother and step-father, and has been living with a boyfriend who recently dumped her. She's sexually mature - there are hints that perhaps her step-father may have contributed to that state, but it's not spelled out - and Izzy, not exactly mature himself, tries to keep his distance but... does not succeed.

The main plot is trying to find Murphy and discover what happened at the Freedom Network compound in association with the leader's death, and with Tom on assignment in Hong Kong, Dave is Team Leader for the operation. There's still tension between Dave and Sophia as well as between Decker and Sophia (lots of discussion in forums on that little triangle); Tess and Nash are suffering some relationship issues associated with Nash's occasional disappearances, insinuating possible infidelity there. Sam and Alyssa only rate a brief mention when they show up near the end to help out in the siege; Jules is the FBI liaison, but doesn't rate much copy. I think all the TS members come in at the end, so if you read the series you will recognize them, but the book also stands alone if you haven't.

This narration was done by 2 people, a man (Patrick Lawley) reading all the sections written from a male POV, including all the dialogue in the section, and a woman (Renee Raudman) reading all the sections from a female POV. I was worried about how that would work - it worked really well for The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Nifenegger, but those were written in first person from both Henry's and Clare's POVs. In this case, it also worked brilliantly - each narrator read the section in the appropriate character voice, and developed a voice for each character for the dialogue. For instance, when reading from Eden's 18-year-old POV, she kept Eden's voice for everything except dialogue spoken by a different character. They were both excellent with this technique, and their acting made the story really come alive. I had listened to a sample of a Linda Howard book where 2 narrators were used, and in the sample, the woman read everything up to when a man spoke, and the man read the line. That threw me for a loop - I'm not sure how I would like listening to an entire book read that way, to be honest.

In contrast to the narration for the 4 books in Nora Robert's O'Hurley books, these narrators rate a solid 5 stars - I had started to think that I preferred a narrator who did a pretty straight-forward reading of all the non-dialogue parts, but these 2 truly acted out the narration, and since there was a lot of action, there was a lot of "action" in their voices - fast action scenes read with urgency, with shouting, raising of voices, whispers when hiding from the bad guys. The O'Hurley series narrator read intimate scenes breathlessly, which came across as - well, bad. Third rate. Cheesy. I dunno, it just didn't work. These narrators did breathless well and made it work in every scene - intimate, action, whatever.

I withhold spoilers for this book - if you were waiting for a Sophia/Decker/Dave resolution, I think you'll be mistakenly disappointed or satisfied in the supposed choice she makes, because I didn't feel it was truly resolved although some forum posters do. There was a nail-biter, choked up issue that I kept telling myself would resolve differently (maybe wishful thinking on my part). I was slightly icked out by Eden's age, not so much the age difference between her and Izzy but just how her age plays in the outcome. I'm not sure the outcome will be as it seemed, and may be more like the Sam/Mary Lou/Alyssa issue.

It was a 5 star listen, and had me on the edge of my (plane) seat at the end, for sure. A lot of the comments on forums about this are from people fed up with being "strung along" as it were for various characters. I don't have a problem with that issue - I liked how some people compared it to TV shows which don't have a resolution for every character every episode. I like having the comfort of the same characters showing up from time to time, and don't mind that some of them take years to resolve. Maybe it's because I read them all one right after the other, so I wasn't waiting 4 years from introduction to HEA.

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