Book Review: Breaking Creed breaks into a gallop

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Breaking Creed, a suspense novel by Alex Kava, opens with a girl swallowing condoms filled with cocaine.  Amanda is a drug mule seduced by an abusive Latin American kingpin.  Ryder Creed, who was a Marine and is now a dog handler, detects Amanda at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta with the help of Grace, a Jack Russell Terrier with a nose for mischief.

Rather than turning Amanda over to the authorities at Hartsfield or taking her the hospital, Creed drives her to his home—in Florida!  This was an extremely peculiar and implausible decision that distracted me for several chapters.  The shock of a grown man taking an underage girl across state lines alone gradually wore off as we learned that Creed operates a halfway house that can help Amanda.

The Creed storyline is intercut with scenes of Special Agent Maggie O’Dell, who is assigned with a homicide case of a “floater” pulled out of the Potomac.  The victim was killed and tortured while strapped to a mound of fire ants.  O’Dell travels to Alabama to investigate where the torture took place.  The investigation and the investigators themselves are targeted by an unknown assassin who uses lethal animals or insects to strike his victims.  It’s a chilling approach.

Creed helps out on the Alabama case, too.  Grace, his Jack Russell Terrier, isn’t just a drug dog or a rescue dog or cadaver dog, she’s an all-purpose crime-stopping dog.  Whenever Grace finds what Creed seeks, he rewards her with her favorite thing—a pink elephant chew toy.  I’m not sure how plausible it is that Grace has so many talents, but she is a fun dog character.  Grace isn’t just a prop or an object of affection in the book—she is a dog that actually affects the plot in several ways throughout the book.

The assassin’s methodology, dog scenes, and galloping pace of the plot make Breaking Creed a fun, quick read.

Less enjoyably, there are many coincidences and convenient turns of events that cause Creed and O’Dell to work together throughout the book.  Their separate investigations merge more than once.  The way Creed and O’Dell get excited to see each other but try to play it cool reminds me of romance novel tropes.  A lot of emotions are attributed to Creed and other male characters in an unconvincing way like romance novelists sometimes do.  There is definitely more action here than in a Nora Roberts book, but overall I would categorize Breaking Creed as a romantic suspense, not as a thriller or mystery as it has been classified by Goodreads and Amazon.

Another word of warning:  although the back cover book blurb makes it sound like the book is set in Atlanta, it isn’t.  Only a couple pages are.

Breaking Creed is the first of the “Creed” series by Alex Kava.

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Dogs get second billing in The Search

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The-Search

The Search by Nora Roberts

Fiona Bristow foiled an attack against her by a serial killer.  Years later, a seeming copycat is intent on finishing the job her original assailant couldn’t.  The Search, a 2010 novel by Nora Roberts, is the story of Fiona and the romance she develops with her new boyfriend Simon while the copycat closes in.  She’s a strong and scrappy woman; Simon is a strong and superficially insensitive man who simultaneously makes her heart sing, curls her toes, and stands side-by-side with her to face down the threat.

The Search is well-written, suspenseful, the characters are engaging, and it’s all designed for a female audience.  I read it because it appeared on lists of books involving military or search-and-rescue dogs.  Dog training is a consistent element or theme throughout the book.  Fiona trains dogs for a living and does search-and-rescue work as a volunteer.  Her job and the volunteer work are successfully woven into the storyline.  However, the dog training seems to be a one-dimensional tool that Roberts uses to reveal Fiona’s character and to give Fiona insights into her would-be killer.  The dogs get assigned names and a couple personality traits, and the reader learns a bit about search-and-rescue operations, but it’s a little thin.  The dogs don’t get quite as much attention or reward in the end as I would think they deserve.

That being said, Nora Roberts intended to write a woman-in-distress romance and not a search-and-rescue book, so it’s not her fault I picked up a copy to read.  I cannot fault Roberts because some people may have exaggerated the extent to which this novel focused on search-and-rescue dogs.  Roberts did a great job and wrote a satisfying conclusion, so I give it four stars out of five, but this book really wasn’t for me.