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Tuesday, July 29, 2008:
"Into the Fire" by Suzanne Brockmann 2008)

Hardcover: 496 pages

Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1 edition (July 22, 2008)

ISBN-10: 0345501535

ISBN-13: 978-0345501530

Suspense doesn’t burn any brighter and desire doesn’t run any deeper than when Suzanne Brockmann takes the helm, opens the throttle, and takes readers along for a breathless ride as she breaks the thrill barrier–again and again. With Into the Fire, Brockmann lights the fuse on her most explosive story yet.

Vinh Murphy–ex-Marine and onetime operative for the elite security firm Troubleshooters Incorporated–has been MIA ever since his wife, Angelina, was caught in a crossfire and killed during what should have been a routine bodyguard assignment. Overcome with grief, Murphy blames the neo-Nazi group known as the Freedom Network for her death. Now, years later, Freedom Network leader Tim Ebersole has been murdered–and the FBI suspects Murphy may have pulled the trigger. To prevent further bloodshed, Murphy’s friends at Troubleshooters scramble to find him and convince him to surrender peacefully.

Murphy himself can’t be sure what he did or didn’t do during the years he spent mourning and lost in an alcohol-induced fog. He does know he occasionally sought solace from Hannah Whitfield, a former police officer and the very friend who’d introduced him to his beloved late wife.

But Hannah, still grappling with the deafness that resulted from an injury sustained while on duty, was fighting her own battles. For years Hannah had feelings for Murphy, and one painful night their suffering brought them together in a way neither expected–and both regretted.

Murphy is ready to rejoin the living. As always, he finds himself knocking on Hannah’s door, and as always, his longtime friend welcomes him back into her home. Yet even as Murphy slowly rebuilds his splintered life, he continues to fight his growing feelings for Hannah.

Then he learns of Ebersole’s murder and comes to believe that the Freedom Network has targeted him–and Hannah–to avenge their leader’s death to violence. Now Murphy must face the terrifying prospect of losing another woman he loves.

As the Troubleshooters desperately search for him, Murphy races toward a deadly confrontation with the Freedom Network and ultimate choice: surrender his life in hopes that Hannah will be spared, or risk everything to salvage whatever future they may have together.

This has been my most anticipated book of 2008, though not my most anticipated couple from the Troubleshooters series. One of the things I enjoy about Suz's books is how well we get to know most of the characters before they get their HEA. I love that. I know a lot of readers are like "all right already!" but I'm not one of them. I enjoy the scenic route. I feel more invested in the characters this way.

So, here we go. It's six months ago, and we have our hero Vinh, whose beautiful, vivacious wife Angelina was violently killed years before. During that time, he stayed in a fog of pain, rage and alcohol, and doesn't remember most of what happened during that time. When he re-surfaces, it's to visit an old friend, Hannah, who's only been in love with him forever.

Hannah is a cop who was badly hurt on her last case that also left her deaf, and now she's living like a hermit in California. To make things more complicated, Hannah was also Angelina's best friend, and had introduced the two. So Hannah has secretly harbored her love for Vinh since the day she's met him, and stood aside when the two people she loved most got married. So now, when Vinh reaches for her during his grief, she doesn't turn him away, and they have a quick, fumbling quickie. Ashamed, drunk, he leaves her before she wakes in the morning.

Around this same time, Izzy (and who doesn't want to read more about Izzy? Such a smart-ass, but a damn hot one at that) meets this beautiful girl that takes his breath away. Turns out this vision is Eden Gillman, younger sister of his fellow SEAL Danny, who happens to have it bad for Sophia, who's totally in love with Decker, who is dead inside...well, yeah, it's complicated.

Fast-forward to the present, where Vinh once again comes to see Hannah, only this time he's sober and clear-eyed. Where Jimmy Nash is hiding something big but refuses to tell anyone, least of all his fiancee' Tess, even after he's shot. Where Eden Gillman shows up back in Izzy's life in an unexpected fashion. Where Deck has a major meltdown. And where it's discovered that Timother Ebersole, the leader of a violent and radical group called the Freedom Network, whom everyone believes is responsible for Angelina's death, has been discovered dead. And everyone suspects Vinh. Even he suspects himself, as he can't remember not doing it, that's how bad off he was. And where Tracy thinks Dave has a great butt (?!?!?!)

My thoughts:

True, this sounds like a convoluted mess, but Suz manages to weave her magic and have it all come together, mostly. There are always loose ends to carry on to the next story, and sometimes the outcome is not what we'd always expect. But that is why she's one of my favorite writers. Suz can completely rip my guts out, get me all twisted, crying and cussing and laughing all in the matter of seconds. There was one instant I was seriously ready to throw the book across the room in denial because my heart had stopped and I was like "Nooooo!" but she turns it around on me and jump-started my faith again. I shoulda known better, but when you're emotions are so completely engaged as mine were, you lose rational thought.

I liked Hannah and Vinh together a lot. She was so completely different than Angelina, more complicated, but she totally complemented the man that Vinh had become since his wife's death. Their love story was very different, but it was perfect for them. I like that Suz never tried to make Hannah a replacement for Angelina, because truth be told, she was just as important to Vinh, only she'd been so in a different way. And not that for one minute I believed Hannah needed a man to "complete" her, Hannah was finally given a chance at happiness, and I was happy to see her take it.

Izzy was very amazing here. Still the smart-ass, but one with a big heart. I think he has it in him to love big, but he's only found superficiality in his life. He might have a shot for something special here, but will it end up being Eden? Or ould it possibly be Tracy? Maybe someone totally different? Who knows. I think Izzy finally wormed his way into my heart in this book. I always thought he was pretty hot, but never gave him much credit before, not really. Here, he became a man, one worthy of his own HEA, and I'll be rooting for him all the way. As for the other SEAL buddies, I thought Danny was a complete jerk and I'm glad Sophia didn't fall for his pretty looks when he so relentlessly pursued her. And then there was Jay Lopez, the quiet medic. Will he find someone to love too?

Decker. Sophia. Dave? Oh my. Things are finally coming to a head with this unlikely triangle here. I am pretty much in the Decker/Sophia camp. Decker has been a complete jerk, no, an ass, to Sophia, hurting her time and time again, pushing her away, but. Yes, I still want them together. Dave has been a wonderful friend to Sophia, sticking with her during her darkest moments, and he's so totally in love with her. I want him to find his own true love, but I don't think it should be Sophia. Will I be upset if Suz goes against my wishes. A little. I would feel like what was the point of all the build-up if she decides to go in another direction? Decker's pain should be assuaged, and I think Sophia would be exactly who he needs to help him heal. True, the more I get to know Dave, the more I like him, but I don't think it's his time. Not yet. Not quite yet.

So of course I wait impatiently for the next installment, which may be out as soon as next spring. Do I recommend this book? Hell yes. If you love emotionally intense stories, this is the perfect series. No other author's work quite manages to affect me as much as Brockmann, and I've loved her books since "Kiss and Tell" a Loveswept from '96 or '97 (that will actually be re-released later this year). I adore books that stay with me, and this one surely does. In fact, I can't wait to re-read it.

Rating: **** 1/2 out of *****

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  1. Ack! I have GOT to read this one! I lurrrve me some Deck/Sophia/Dave.

    Not to mention the rest of the book... I'm so bummed she's not holding her reader's dinner this year at RWA :(

  2. hum seems very VERY complicated haven't read anything from her yet arrrrrghh 13 books ? i am so late !
    I am already quite ashamed to say that i am only at book 8 of the in death series .
    I have some serious catch up to do!

  3. Me too, me too, everything she said!!

    It is hard to say how much I love these books. Seriously, these people are not real, but they feel real :)

  4. Great book, I loved it.

  5. I;m with you about wanting to hurl the book at one point- and I will be it was the same point. And I think you will get your wish (and mine) for Dave with.....

    Pidute- I keep threatening to make a chart to keep track of everyone.

  6. I found this site called maybe you can use it. It seems to help get me through the issues of dealing with some of the jerks I know. At least I can vent about these jerks, plus I get a kick out of sending them some cards.wtua

  7. I've been avoiding this post because (as you know) I didn't get the book until late in the game, but it's bought and read and...


    I know EXACTLY what part made you almost throw the book against the wall, because it was the same for me. In fact, I had to talk myself down from the ledge, mumbling over and over, "Didn't she say she'd never do this? Didn't I read it in an interview somewhere? Come on, there has to be more to the story..."


    And a damn fine book, to boot. I think I need to read it again, too. :)

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