Taking on the world’s deadliest criminals is what the elite security force Troubleshooters Incorporated does best. But now they face a new and powerful threat from their most lethal enemy yet–a shadowy government outfit known only as The Agency.
For years, operative James Nash has performed ultra-covert “Black Ops” missions for The Agency, but when he decide to walk away from their dirty work, his corrupt bosses aren’t about to let him go. After Nash is nearly assassinated, Troubleshooters team leader Lawrence Decker launches a skillful deception to neutralize the threat and protect his friend. With the FBI’s help, Decker fakes Nash’s death, then brings him to a safe house with his fiancée, Tess Bailey, to recover from his injuries and strategize their next move.
Only a handful of people know that Nash is still alive–and fellow Troubleshooters Dave Malkoff, Sophia Ghaffari, and receptionist Tracy Shapiro aren’t among them. Believing that Nash is dead and that Decker has begun a romantic relationship with Tess, Sophia settles for second best and begins a love affair with Dave, who has adored her for years. But Tracy puts two and two together, discovering the truth about Nash–much to Decker’s dismay.
As passions flare, Decker struggles to keep his scheme afloat, and to keep Nash alive. But when he finds himself targeted for death, the game turns even more perilous, and Sophia, Tracy, and Dave are swept into the deadly play. Under fire and racing to unmask their relentless adversary, the Troubleshooters know that the closer they get, the greater the risks. But sacrifices and consequences come with the territory. Forced to choose between love and loyalty, they are no longer just solving a crime–they’re fighting for survival.
I've only mentioned a gazillion times that I am an unabashed Suzanne Brockmann fan, that I have an undying love for her Navy SEAL books, and now that is true more than ever. I don't care if what she writes is believable or not. It's fiction, after all. What matters to me is how I feel at the end of it. Have you ever felt really sad after reading a truly unforgettable book? That's how I'm feeling after reading the 14th installment in the Troubleshooters series. Suz effectively rips my gut apart and then makes me fall completely in love with the choices she's made for her characters. I know some readers feel like she throws too much into the mix (ala everything plus the kitchen sink method of writing) but with Suz it totally, totally works for me. This time around it's not quite so overwhelming, so I was better able to concentrate on the people that I was rooting for in this book. And yes, there will be spoilers here. I really don't know any way around it, so stop now if you don't want the dirt before you're ready for it.
Okay, you've been sufficiently warned. Well. Where do I begin? I'm still overcome with emotion though I finished this book over 12 hours ago (Saturday). One thing I will say is that I am a huge fan of the drawn-out storylines that Suz has mastered since "Unsung Hero" (the first Troubleshooters book). The reason being is because we meet these people, and see into their complicated, messy lives, and inevitably begin to care for many of them. Sometimes we might hate them, and sometimes we really don't care one way or the other. Other times we adore them, then hate them, then fall in love all over again. A lot of times we cry. And laugh. Rejoice. And mourn. No one, not even my beloved Lisa Kleypas
, can run me through the emotional ringer like Suz does. My heart is racing from the very first page, mostly in anticipation of what's to come. I haven't loved every book, nor every storyline, but not once did I ever close a Troubleshooters book and feel nothing. I am completely invested from the get-go.
Yes, this is a total Suz lovefest. And I'll tell you why: because she took what I would describe as a completely impossible situation and made it work in such a way that I was completely, completely happy with the outcome. That's saying something because I had my heart on things turning out a certain way, but they didn't go that way at all. And if you don't want to find what I'm talking about, I hope you stop reading. Because I cannot review this book without giving spoilers. I just cannot. SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
"Dark of Night" picks up immediately where "Into the Fire" leaves off - with tortured hero Jimmy Nash dead and his friends in mourning. With equal parts grief and relief at still being alive, we find Dave and Sophia at the bar, kissing. So here I was sitting, squirming in my chair because as much as I liked Dave, and I really did like the guy, I was in the Sophia & Decker camp. Even during my moments of wanting to smack Deck for being so stupid, and self-sacrificing, and guilty, I still had hopes that these two damaged souls would end up together and finally, FINALLY get their shot at much deserved happiness. But then Dave and Sophia kept kissing, damn them. And then Soph is inviting Dave up to her room. And then they are getting naked. No, no, no. This was not the plan. Suz, what the hell are you doing to me here? I can't handle this. Argh! I am dying a slow, achy death and my heart is hurting. Then we flash-forward about 7 weeks into the future, which is actually the present, to Dave. And he's remembering his short but glorious time with Sophia. Next we're going back four days from the present, where one phone call sets about a chain of events that leads to what happes next...
See, here's another spoiler, one that actually goes back to "Into the Fire". Not everyone knows this, and certainly not Dave and Sophia, but Nash is not really dead. Some very bad people want him dead, and they are willing to kill innocent people in order to make that happen. They seem to be one step ahead at all times, and when Jimmy is seriously hurt, Decker, Jules Cassidy and Jimmy's fiancee' Tess pretend that Jimmy died from his injuries in order to protect him and find out who's after him. Because at one time Decker had feelings for Tess, it seemed natural to everyone that he would be there for Tess, and if Jimmy's out of the picture, it would clear the way for Deck and Tess to eventually end up together. Or so everyone believes, including Dave and Sophia. Dave knows Sophia has loved Decker for a long time, but he's willing to be second best. He loves her so completely that he sees any chance with her as a gift, and it's also obvious that he does make her very happy (ugh! Damn you, Dave, for being such a good guy!). Sophia, in the meantime, has come to terms with the fact that Decker doesn't love her, and wants to have a life, a normal one with a nice, ordinary man and maybe children one day. She sees Dave as that man.
But in reality, Dave is not that man. Despite his paunch and his nice guy demeanor, Dave is not just a regular guy with a desk job and a mortgage. He's a trained Troubleshooter, one who knows how to kill and how to handle deadly situations. When Dave is stabbed in what initially appears to be a random attack, Sophia starts to realize that Dave is much more than what she bargained for, and that she cares much more for him than she ever thought possible. She will do anything to keep him safe, even disregard orders if it means she can protect him.
Meanwhile, Lawrence Decker is one of very few people who knows Jimmy Nash is still alive, and he wants to make sure it stays that way. But it's obvious whoever is after Jimmy is not satisfied with mere reports of his death. They are coming after those who cared for Jimmy, and it soon becomes imperative that Decker bring on reinforcements in the form of Sam and Alyssa (who now have an adorable son named Ashton!). With the help of Jules' husband Robin, they set up a safe house for him in California. All is going well under the Troubleshooters' too perceptive receptionist Tracy Shapiro starts to figure out a few things and realizes that Nash is still alive. Incredulous, and concerned for her safety, Deck decides the only thing he can do is bring her along. As the two make their way to the safe house, they have an encounter with Dr. Jo Heissman, who first appeared in "Into the Fire", and whom Deck is convinced is working for the Agency. She insists she's innocent but Decker doesn't want to hear it. They leave her behind and end up injured when the motel where they were planning to stay is blown up and Deck is shot.
As they run to safety, it's evident that there is something sizzling between them, something Tracy is more than willing to explore, but Deck, not so much. The sexy receptionist is infamous for falling in love on a dime, but he can't help but admire her guts, and how she's not afraid to stand up to him, which is something no one ever does. She's much smarter than he ever gave her credit for. But Deck has a little secret, something that will probably have Tracy running for the hills. Only when she finds out what it is, she lets him know that she has absolutely no problem with it. In fact, she's giving him the green light all the way. Deck definitely floats her boat, and for the first time, she's falling for a man before having sex with him. But she knows he's hung up on Sophia so....
Except that's the thing - he's not. Hung up on Sophia that is. Yes, there's a ton and a half of residual guilt for a sexual act that occurred between them years ago, but he feels more guilty about how much he totally got off on it. He figures there's something definitely wrong with him, and he tries to hide his true nature. He also believes that there could never be anything between him and Sophia. Whew! Can I just say that at this point, despite wanting Deck and Sophia to hook up, that I'm totally relieved that Deck doesn't want to be with Sophia because now I want him with Tracy. Whom I didn't much like in "Into the Storm" but who has become someone I really genuinely like in this book. Go Tracy! I totally switched sides, just that easily. I know. I am such a fairweather fan. Suz wrote both storylines in such a way that I was completely onboard with how it all played out.
There's also a storyline involving Dr. Jo Heissman, whom I admit I didn't care for much in "Into the Fire". Colleen Gleason compared Dr. Jo to Molly Jones. I can see why she'd say that, but I really liked Molly, right from the start, and I never warmed up much to the Dr. Jo, and that doesn't change here. I felt a little sorry for her (as long as she kept her needy hands off Decker) but mostly I just want her to go away. Yet it turns out the Doc is being blackmailed and has an interesting connection to someone who works at the Troubleshooters office.
So now the good guys are trying to find out who is trying to kill Jimmy Nash by using any means possible. There is nothing they won't do - they have no limits. They are not just protecting Jimmy anymore, they are protecting each other....
(I stopped there because there is a lot more going on, and chances are if you're reading this, you've already read the book, so you know what happens. If you haven't read the book, then hopefully I left you curious enough to want to read it. And yes, I am all over the place here, but don't let that stop you from reading the books).
The biggest obstacle Suz had in making this story work for me was the whole Decker/Sophia/Dave dynamic. I was firmly in the Decker camp, even when there were times I wanted to go up to him and smack him silly for hurting Sophia like he did. Turns out that he does care for her, just not in the way she deserves, and he knows he would not be the man for her because of his own nature. But rather than sitting her down and explaining all this to her, which probably wouldn't have worked anyway with the way Sophia felt, he stayed away from her. I think Decker is the type of guy who was willing to let other people hate him as long as he didn't hurt Sophia. It all makes a crazy kind of sense now, but at the time, yeah, I would get so mad at Deck, much like Dave would. All you could see was this great guy willing to let a very special woman slip through his fingers, and it was very hard to watch.
Dave. He probably laid the adoration on a bit too thick here, but considering all the brutal abuse and trauma Sophia has suffered throughout her life, she deserved a man who loved her unconditionally, and that is exactly how Dave loved her. She could have gone off with Decker and he still would have loved her. He had those normal guy tendencies Sophia wanted, plus he was a little insecured. But he was also a very smart man who's lived a dangerous life, and knows how to take care of himself in those kinds of situations. Sophia didn't always want to see it, but Dave was hero material, just no so upfront about it. I think his involvement with the Troubleshooters put them more on even ground because it wasn't just Dave getting the girl, it was Sophia getting the hero.
Tracy. Like I mentioned, I didn't like her in "Into the Storm", when Mark was all in love with her before he met Lindsey. She was, essentially, a needy bitch. But she grew up A LOT since becoming the receptionist for Troubleshooters, Inc. And the heat between her and Decker went through the roof. I was impatient to see these two hook up, because every exchange, whether they were talking about Jimmy or Sophia or running from the bad guys, was charged with this incredible sexual tension. Deck tried to push it away, but Tracy surprised him. See, she's figured out what he's all about, and she's okay with it. In fact, she's more than okay with it and wants to give him a go. I admired the hell out of her for being as assertive as she was. I also loved watching her break through Deck's defenses until he cared for her more than he ever expected. She totally got to him on so many levels, and he genuinely liked her as a person and saw how smart she was, especially to figure out something that many trained professionals did not. She impressed the hell out of him, and when these two are around each other, they make the perfect match. I loved their pairing up. And it gave me the reason I needed to let Dave and Sophia be happy.
The one thing that drove me a little crazy, just a minor detail, is how freakin' beautiful both Sophia and Tracy are. I know it probably was to balance how messed up emotionally they were, but it still was a little annoying to hear that they were more gorgeous without makeup (eye roll). Perfect bodies and celebrity hair. Ugh. Enough already. A zit from time to time wouldn't have killed them.
But seriously, this book did everything I expected and more. I've read some other reviews around the 'net, and many were favorable, though a few commented on the idea that any SEAL, agent, cop, etc., could essentially get a job at Troubleshooters, Inc., no questions asked, and that how the business was run was not too realistic. Fine. I don't get mired in those details. I don't want too much realism in these books. They are larger than life, and if things work out a little too perfectly, so be it. It never once took away from my enjoyment of the story. In fact after reading "Into the Fire" I was ready to have my emotions completely engaged by a central couple (or couples, as it ended up being) that I cared wholeheartedly for. No offense to Vinh and Hannah, but they just didn't have me at the edge of my seat, in a total maelstrom of emotion.
This has been a long review, and I could go on and on and on, but suffice it to say, I was so completely happy when I finished this book. As always, I enjoy seeing the other characters, and I wish there was a way to have them all in the book: Ken & Savannah, Tom & Kelly, Max & Gina, Molly & Jones, Mark & Lindsey, Cosmo and Jane, Mike and Joan. You get the idea.
If you haven't read this series, sorry, but I really don't believe this is the place to start. You might enjoy it, but there's just so much backstory that you should read first. It's the 14th installment. In fact I am planning a massive re-read of the Troubleshooters series starting this month. I can't wait!!!
Rating: ***** out of *****
Labels: Brockmann, Troubleshooters