Thursday, August 24, 2006
Into The Storm by Suzanne Brockmann
Flat out loved it.
In a remote, frozen corner of New Hampshire, a Navy SEAL team and the elite security experts of Troubleshooters, Incorporated are going head-to-head as fierce but friendly rivals in a raid-and-rescue training exercise. Despite the frigid winter temperatures, tension smolders between veteran SEAL Petty Officer Mark “Jenk” Jenkins and former cop turned Troubleshooter Lindsey Fontaine after an impulsive night goes awry. And then, suddenly, Tracy Shapiro, the Troubleshooters’ new receptionist, vanishes while playing the role of hostage during a mock rescue operation.
Teaming up with the FBI to launch a manhunt in the treacherous wilderness, Jenk and Lindsey must put aside their feelings as a record snowstorm approaches, dramatically reducing any hope of finding Tracy alive. The trail is colder than the biting New England climate until a lucky break leads to a horrifying discovery—a brutally murdered young woman wearing the jacket Tracy wore when she disappeared. Suddenly there is a chilling certainty that Tracy has fallen prey to a serial killer—one who knows the backwoods terrain and who doesn’t play by the rules of engagement.
In a race against time, a raging blizzard, and a cunning opponent, Jenk and Lindsey are put to the ultimate test. Risking everything, they must finally come together in a desperate attempt to save Tracy—and each other.
Just days before the release of Into The Storm, I read Harvard’s Education, one of Brockmann’s earlier titles. Last May, I finally got around to reading Over The Edge. In both instances, I was reminded that Brockmann reigns in this “category.” In recent months I have read (and enjoyed) Gennita Low’s backlist as well as titles from Amy J. Fetzer and Cindy Gerard. Not exact comparisons, but close enough on the romantic suspense meter. And they were all very, very good. Brockmann however, delivers more.
Into The Storm features the same flawless characterization, wit and suspense found in this series’ previous installments. Per Brockmann’s guide to her TroubleShooters series, there are two relationships building throughout ITS. In the primary relationship, the hero, Jenk, and heroine, Lindsey, meet, fall for each other and build to an HEA. In the secondary relationship, Jenk and Izzy, his SEAL teammate, enjoy a sometimes serious, more often adolescent rapport—deepening their friendship with the kind of male bonding Brockmann captures so well.
I enjoyed both equally. In both relationships, her characters display a quick wit that is simultaneously intelligent and juvenile. It was reminiscent of my days with a dot com—populated by jean and tee shirt-clad brainiacs with a pension for all things Trekkie. For me, despite my er…advanced years, it is the kind of humor that evokes hard belly laughs and tears in your eyes. Brockmann’s delivery is perfection. She so easily engages the reader, soliciting genuine affection (and tolerance) for her characters.
There is only a cursory bit of real life action in this one. The rest is comprised of two training ops between the SEAL team and the TroubleShooters staff. Both ops can be described as more humorous than intense. There is a lot of emotional bumbling around, for just about every character. There is ample time to grow relationships and friendships here. Without constant life and death tension, Brockmann gives readers a book that can be enjoyed slowly. Rosario said something similar about Angels Fall from Nora Roberts this summer. The same applies to ITS.
The romance—between Jenk and Lindsey—is well done. These characters are so well suited. And the bump in the road—expected—is portrayed without belaboring the emotional issues. They are there, yes. They are deep-rooted but not all that well founded, yes. And Jenk and Lindsey talk them to death on a couple of occasions. Yes. But Brockmann does not anchor either character down with the baggage. Both are smart enough to overcome it and the reader knows it. Although there for a minute, I really thought their sexy start had come to an abrupt stop. And with Brockmann’s tendency to draw relationships out over several books, I had a moment of doubt.
Izzy, ITS’ ‘other’ hero, provides much of the book’s laughs. Again, intelligent and juvenile. His view of nearly everything reveals his keen perception. His reaction to most reveals his adolescent humor. When I finished ITS, I didn’t want to immediately let go of the amusement. So I re-read a passage here and there. And found that Izzy was the one who brought a smile to my face over and over again. Without detracting from Jenk and Lindsey. Without jumping up and down in front of the camera screaming for his own story. For ITS, Izzy compliments Jenk as well as Lindsey does. That is his purpose and the reader loves him for it. Do I want to see Izzy’s story from Brockmann? Yes. But I’m not looking at a calendar. If he finds his way to starring in the HEA in the next few years, I’ll be content.
The sub, sub story of Decker and Sophia—and now Dave—is there too. When I read my first Brockmann title, the number of characters and storylines layered into each book was confusing. Annoying even. But by the time I had finished that book, I had the rhythm down and a newfound appreciation for such long-term character development. In ITS, it is Decker and Sophia’s turn to be tortured well in advance of their own HEA. While we don’t get much more insight into Decker, we do get to know Sophia better. We also get to know Dave, now the third wheel to this storyline—a third wheel that will potentially divide fans of the series. Dave is likeable enough to garner his own following. It will be interesting to see where Brockmann takes this. Particularly given her parting shot for these three. I won’t ruin it, but Sophia’s last action in the book is the ultimate “Ha!”.
The suspense comes in the form of a serial killer, whereabouts unknown. Brockmann deftly introduces his evil early on and leaves the reader worried for the book’s heroine throughout. This element of suspense parallels the nature of the training ops beautifully.
Like I said, I flat out loved it. The ‘didn’t want it to end’ kind of love. For me, Brockmann’s SEALs and TroubleShooters are as well loved as Robb’s cast of In Death characters. I will never tire of them. I will never outgrow them. And I will always want to know what happens to them.