Book review: Sabotaged

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Alaskan Courage #5

The premise of a thriller against the backdrop of the Iditarod sled race is an exciting one.  The novel (Sabotaged, 2015) starts strong.  Kirra’s cousin Meg is abducted.  Kira’s uncle Frank, a musher in the race, is coerced by criminals into doing a mysterious job for them before they will release Meg.  Frank is able to tell Kirra and her burgeoning love interest, Reef, what happened to Meg.  He wants them to rescue Meg without involving the police.

At first, Kirra and Reef appear to have a testy relationship.  The development of the romance between them is fairly predictable, and once it has developed, it unfortunately becomes a bit saccharine.  More conflicts or disagreements between the two as they investigate Meg’s abduction may have helped.  Though Kirra is nervous about Reef’s trustworthiness early on, he is generally depicted as strong, caring, tenacious, and faithful.  Kirra is scarred and impulsive, but he appears to have no faults, and I think because of that I became bored by their romance.

I was prepared to accept the exclusion of the police, but it did bother me after a while.  Kirra and Reef virtually become the police, seeking out leads and questioning them like characters are questioned in police procedurals.  The detective-style was an interesting but unexpected approach, and to me it almost became more technical than thrilling.

That being said, Dani Pettrey is a gifted writer who has a way with words.  The characters are grounded in Christian beliefs which is refreshing compared to other novels these days.  The Alaskan Courage series also has great covers, conjuring up a spirit of beautiful outdoor adventure.

I read this book partly because it’s on a Goodreads list called “Fiction: Police, Military & Service Dogs.”  It isn’t the fault of Pettrey that the book has been branded by readers this way, but unfortunately the listing (and cover and dust jacket involving the Iditarod) set up an unrealistic expectation for me.  I thought the Iditarod and the sled dogs would feature much more prominently in the plot.  Growing up in the South and being accustomed to labs and hounds, the idea of huskies and sled dogs always seemed very exotic and compelling to me.  I got my hopes up that I would learn something about the dogs of the Iditarod in this novel.  There was some information about the race itself, most of the action took place outside the Iditarod trail, and nothing about the dogs.

Oh well.  It was still an enjoyable romantic suspense novel if that type of book appeals to you.

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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.