Troubleshooters, move over. The Reluctant Heroes have arrived.
Fans of Suzanne Brockmann's military suspense novels need not worry. There's a new cast of intriguing, smart and buff characters (both the men and the women), but the adrenaline-driven pace and crafty plotting are pure Brockmann.
The hero, former Navy SEAL Ian Dunn, is on a mission to rescue two kidnapped children being held in the Kazbekistan consulate in Miami. Enter lawyer Phoebe Kruger, who is part of the deal because the FBI recruits Dunn, who is her client, from prison. They want Dunn because they can't send government teams into the consulate without creating an international incident. And they get Dunn because they offer a clean slate for him and his brother, who is in hiding under suspicion of murder.
All this is right out of the chute, leading readers to relax and think they can see clear to the end and just have to sit back and enjoy the ride.
But bestselling author Brockmann is just getting started. There's a whole new team to meet, with agents and family and in-laws and outlaws and, yes, even a baby. They're each unique, intriguing and developed as the action continues, with Brockmann deftly juggling their stories with quick timing that keeps the narrative from dragging.
A bonus for us on the gulf coast is that she has plopped down these new characters in her winter home, Sarasota, bringing her already vivid writing alive in settings we can easily visualize: The kingpin of the Mafia family the Dellarosas lives in Clearwater, the good guys travel I-75 past orange groves and cattle, a safe house is in a vacation rental with tired Florida decor and beach house mildew smell. The action is on land and in the water, under a dock and on a yacht. They even shop at Publix.
The mission to rescue the kidnapped children is almost on hold as Ian rounds up his team and deals with the feds, who want to make all the rules, the Mafiosi, who complicate everything, and intertwined relationships past and present. Each revelation adds a layer to the story and to Ian's character. And while Phoebe is pretty much dragged along for the ride, it gives her a front-row seat for getting to know this reluctant hero.
It should come as no surprise to Brockmann devotees that the most grounded relationship in the book is that of a gay couple, Aaron and Shelley. Aaron is the brother that Ian raised, and Shelley is a Dellarosa, albeit estranged. They've faced great trials to be together, and while their road is not smooth, they're devoted and work through problems. And they're the parents of the baby, who, thankfully, is not brought along on the shoot-'em-up parts of the mission.
While there is plenty of gunfire and hot pursuit, this story is more con game than military mission. Brockmann's nod to The Sting brings out the best in these characters and gives lawyer and love interest Phoebe some of her few interesting scenes, when she impresses Ian with her improvisational skills. Eventually the con runs its course and the mission turns military. They finally get around to going after those kidnapped kids and taking care of the bad guy.
As the team members dispersed, I looked forward to reading their tales, knowing that master storyteller Brockmann will deliver them as she did in the 17 Troubleshooters books. Of all the Do or Die characters, Phoebe is possibly the least explored, but she fulfills her duty as a reluctant hero: underscoring the message that whether you're a strong, independent woman or he-man SEAL, it's love that makes us all vulnerable. And as strong as we need to be.