Dear Ms. Webb:
The romantic suspense market seems crowded these days and it’s hard to pick out a new author. It’s not because the suspense market isn’t full of good authors. It is actually one genre that seems to be full of competent authors and competent books. The problem is that from one to another, they all seem to have the same storylines (law enforcement officers solving crimes), the same hooks that drive the suspense (serial killers), the same time frame (twenty four hours to a few days).
What makes a RS standout for me, then, is the characterizations of the lead law enforcement officers. They must have a compelling narrative, outside of the suspense, in order for me to want to pick up the next book in the series. So while I might come to an RS book different ways*, I won’t go back to the same RS writer unless I found the issues outside the suspense to be interesting.
Such is the case of Nameless. Keishon’s review, while positive, said that the character growth was marginal, but I thought it was large part of what made the story work.
Ryan McBride was cast out of the FBI after having built a legendary reputation for closing everyone of his child abduction cases. His last case went south and his supervisor decided that McBride would take the fall. For the first year after he was fired, he kept thinking that the FBI would wise up and come crawling back to him. With each Amber Alert that would pass and the phone would remain silent, McBride fell into a greater depression, medicating himself with cheap sex, cheap booze and cigarettes. He had reached a state of alcohol induced numbness when three years later, rookie FBI Agent Vivian Grace shows up with the invitation he had given up waiting for.
The FBI is desperate to have him back because someone has kidnapped a six year old girl and will only give the clues to her release to McBride. McBride agrees to go with Grace because while he hates the FBI, he can’t resist the siren lure of being a hero again, even if that isn’t what he thinks motivates him. Grace is bound by her own past demons. Her supervisor knows her past, a sordid, victimized one, and that keeps her on the fringes of big cases. Getting McBride back to Alabama to find the missing girl will be one step in finally proving that she can handle her own cases.
McBride is attracted to Grace and uses a blatant come on strategy to put distance between the two of them. Grace is savvy enough to figure that out but doesn’t appreciate his long looks and his innuendos more because she’s responding to them in a way she hadn’t before.
McBride and Grace are given a series of tasks by McBride’s “Devoted Fan.” The madman is determined to show the FBI that they were wrong in firing McBride and that he could save people. The FBI isn’t quite sure whether McBride is in on the ploy and he’s treated with as much skepticism as respect.
There are some flaws to the story. There were what I thought to be obvious clues that the agents conveniently overlooked so as not to solve the problem early on. And the clues seemed so easily solved for a villain who was purportedly a genius.
The suspense is driven by the setup and the clues that McBride and Grace are given. Each task is timed and if they can’t solve the riddles before the time is up, the victim dies. But the point here isn’t that the victim is to die. The point is for McBride to solve the riddle and be the savior. McBride and Grace are both constantly beset with doubts which makes them all the more accessible. McBride calls himself “shitty baggage” because he realizes that he’s messed up in the head. Grace finally is forced to acknowledge that running away from her past doesn’t actually make the past disappear.
They are two pieces of damaged goods that could survive separately but together are not only a good team, but good for each other. The romance was well integrated, in part because McBride and Grace’s personal issues were amplified by the suspense. And while there were steamy sex scenes, not of them seemed to be out of place. The suspense kept the plot moving but the two lead characters were unique enough to make me wonder what else does this author write about. B
*I thought that Jayne wrote a review for Traceless, but I couldn’t find it in the archives. It could be that I got the name from Keishon’s review of this book but I bought this book based upon someone’s recommendation. It has lingered in my TBR stack for the past few months along with Faceless, the August release. Guess what I’ll be reviewing next though?
(in this case because of Jayne’s compelling review of Traceless and Keishon’s review of this book),