Sunday, September 18, 2011

"Evil Without A Face" by Jordan Dane

Jessica Beckett is a bounty hunter haunted by her past as an abused child. Her obsession with criminal Lucas Baker inadvertently alerts her to the activities of a secret criminal organisation. Meanwhile, young Nikki Archer has sought to escape what she thinks of as a rotten life with her mother in Alaska. Her on-line chats have not been with another teenager, but with a criminal mastermind who likes to kidnap young teenage girls. Nikki's uncle, Payton Archer, who used to play for the NFL, vows to find out who is responsible. This eventually leads to crossing paths with Jessica, and chasing down an evil, global corporation.

There's nothing wrong with "Evil Without A Face" that I can actually put my finger on. But for some reason, it never really gripped me, and it took a long time for me to finish the book. I was never compelled to pick it up during a spare moment and eventually had to force myself to finish it. As far as romantic suspense goes, this falls on the grittier side, as it deals with the young teenage girls who fall victim to online predators. Jessica herself has survived a childhood in which she was kidnapped by a pedophile. The book (perhaps thankfully) doesn't delve into too much detail regarding Jessica's past, but it does give the character a bit of an edge.

In fact, the book is largely plot-driven and action-based, as Jessica and her new employee, the mysterious Seth Harper, get tangled up in far more than they bargained for. The book is more than half-way through before Jessica and Payton even meet, which is highly unusual for this genre. In a way, it's refreshing, but it also makes what follows a bit more troublesome. "Evil Without A Face" suddenly transforms from a not-bad thriller into a typical romantic-suspense bore. Jessica and Payton are attracted to each other. They inherently sense something in one another. Blah blah blah. The cliches come thick and fast, which includes the introduction of a covert alliance that operates in taking out evil global conspiracies. How convenient.

I'm sick of covert operations in this genre. It's tired. It's overdone. The introduction of Alexa Malone, an agent for this operation, clearly screams "sequel!" As does Seth Harper's mysterious past. I imagine they're the central characters for the next two instalments of what the book jacket calls the "Sweet Justice" series. Blech. I appreciated the fact that "Evil Without A Face" was more thriller than romance, but would have preferred it continue in one vein, rather than abruptly shifting tones halfway through.

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