Dear Ms. Armstrong,
While I’m quite familiar with your Otherworld novels, your non-paranormal Nadia Stafford books are a recent discovery for me. But as I said in that review, sometimes being late to the party can have its advantages. Namely, no long wait in between books! And unless I’m mistaken, almost two years have passed since Exit Strategy was published.
Nadia Stafford is a former cop who lost her career when she killed a suspect on the job. These days, she runs a lodge and has been rebuilding her life. But it takes a while to make a business profitable so to keep the lodge afloat, she works as a hitwoman for a small-time New York mafia family.
These days, things have been going well. She’s making enough money now that she can hire an assistant. It’s true the assistant in question is not the most personable or responsible of employees, but Nadia wants to help the girl, who’s a teenaged single mother and comes from a family known for being bad news. Everyone else in town has given up on the girl but Nadia refuses to be like them.
Then one day the girl and her baby go missing. Everyone in town thinks the girl ran off — even her own mother. Nadia suspects otherwise. When she looks into it, what she discovers is far worse than she ever imagined.
If Exit Strategy explores the lines assassins refuse to cross and the conditions under which they decide to break their own personal codes, Made To Be Broken builds on that and adds in the layer of what makes a person worth saving. Nadia’s employee is written off as trash, just like her mother, who was just like her mother before her. But Nadia wanted to help her, because she saw a girl who’d never been given a chance to escape her family’s reputation.
As was shown in the previous book, Nadia continues to exhibit guilt over what happened to her cousin, Amy. She wasn’t able to save Amy from being raped or killed, nor was she able to give Amy justice because the rapist was found innocent of all charges. In a way, finding out what happened to her employee is a second chance for her. Amy’s memory haunts every decision and action — from second-guessing what she could have done differently to prevent her employee’s disappearance to the irrational overreactions when she does learn exactly what happened.
What I found most interesting in this storyline, however, is the further details we receive about Amy’s rape and murder. Even though the narrative explicitly says one thing, I believe it implicitly states something else about Nadia’s involvement. If I inferred correctly, I think it explains a great deal about Nadia, her outlook on life, the way she approaches relationships of all kinds, and why her survivor’s guilt is so pervasive. Jane and I chatted about this aspect and we had both reached the same conclusion separately, so I’m very interested in hearing from other readers as to what they think.
Jack and Nadia continue to tease us by dancing around each other. At the start of Made To Be Broken, their relationship is strained due to a lack of communication. As a result, their interactions have a different feel from the previous novel. I’m not exactly sure where Nadia’s relationship with Quinn is headed, but I might just have blinders on because I keep wanting to push Jack and Nadia towards one another. I guess that’s for another book.
While I don’t think Made To Be Broken was quite as tightly plotted as Exit Strategy, I do think it made up for it with the character developments and hints into Nadia’s past. I felt it was simpler story in that sense, so readers who prefer less intricately layered plots will be pleased. As for myself, I certainly hope there will be more books in the series because honestly, I want more Nadia and Jack. I feel like their relationship is approaching the breaking point, one way or another, and I hope us readers will get to see what happens when that day comes. B