Thursday, August 11, 2016

Man of Action - Janie Crouch (HI #1650 - July 2016)

Series: Omega Sector: Critical Response (Book 4)

He was a man of action -- especially when it came to protecting his new undercover partner…

At nineteen, Andrea Gordon's life was forever changed. After proving herself instrumental in a bank hostage crisis, she became one of Omega Sector's top agents. Four years later, her skill at reading people is unrivaled -- until she meets fellow profiler Brandon Han. Paired together to track a serial killer who has been targeting at-risk women, the two become entangled beyond the case. Their mutual attraction deepens as they get closer to the truth. But when Andrea's own sordid past surfaces, they will both be forced to question everything about the assignment…and each other.

Very good book that drew me in right from the start and didn't let go until I'd read the last page. Both Andrea and Brandon were fascinating characters. Andrea is introduced first when, at the age of nineteen, she's already been through more trauma than most people experience in their entire lives. Then she becomes instrumental in preventing a slaughter during a bank robbery, and her life changed forever. Her talents earn her an offer of training and a job, enabling her to leave her troubled past behind.

Brandon's life was almost exactly the opposite. He was the son of loving parents who were supportive of all his endeavors. When he misbehaved as a child they quickly figured out why and took steps to solve the issue. As a result, he has multiple degrees and an excellent job with Omega Sector as one of their top profilers.

Four years later, Andrea and Brandon are tagged to work together to solve a serial murderer case in her old hometown. Brandon prefers to work alone, ever since the death of his previous partner, and isn't at all happy to be forced to work with Andrea. She can sense his antagonism, which adds to her own insecurities. Though she is respected in her work, Andrea keeps herself apart from everyone, always afraid that someone will discover her past and judge her for it. I ached for her, as she always lived with the fear that she was about to be fired because of it (even though her boss knows all about her past).

Brandon irritated me at the beginning, and at several points throughout the book, because he comes across as very judgmental. He sees Andrea as young and inexperienced, in spite of her reputation, and thinks that she is going to be a liability rather than an asset. It made me very happy to see her prove him wrong right from the beginning. It was quite satisfying to see him have to readjust his thinking.

Also from the beginning, there is a sense of attraction between them. Brandon is taken by her beauty, and also finds himself feeling quite protective of her. There's a pretty sweet scene where he cares for her after she's had something of a flashback to her previous life. She opens up to him a little bit about her early life, but doesn't reveal her biggest secret to him, afraid of what his reaction would be.

When the case that they are working on gets to the point where they want to draw the killer out, Andrea volunteers to go undercover. Intellectually Brandon knows now what she did in her previous life and claims to be fine with it, but when he actually sees her doing the job his reaction is very different. I was very angry with him over the way he acted, especially since he knew he was being an ass, but kept doing it anyway. I hurt for Andrea, who had started to come out of her shell, thanks to Brandon's belief in her and her abilities. Feeling his negativity hurt her so much because she had begun to care for him. I loved the way that comments from their boss and a lecture from one of Andrea's former coworkers made him feel like the jerk he was. I did like the fact that he was able to admit his stupidity and apologize for it, though I wish she had made him work a bit harder for her forgiveness.

The suspense of the story was really good. Both Andrea and Brandon have complementary skills when it comes to figuring out who the killer is. Together they are a great team. I could feel their frustration at the way local law enforcement was less than totally committed to the investigation because of who the victims were. The tension was a slow build as they followed the few clues they had to narrow the field. When Andrea went undercover, I was just waiting for the killer to go after her. I was right there with them when the evidence pointed to the lead suspect, even though both of them wondered how they could have missed the signs. What came next was a complete surprise, with an added twist that doubled the intensity of the final confrontation. I liked that it had realistic consequences for Brandon, and that it was Andrea's turn to be there for him. There was one loose end left hanging that I suspect will be addressed in the next book.

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