Posted in: AztecLady Reviews
Tags:Suzanne Brockmann, Troubleshooters
Hello, I’m azteclady, and have been a fan of Ms Brockmann for close to ten years. She is, in fact, one of only two authors whose books I get in hardback. Oh, and the following review is long-yes, longer than usual even for long-winded me. You’ve been warned.
The fourteenth title in Ms Brockmann’s very successful Troubleshooters series, Dark of Night concludes a seven book story arc for a number of recurring characters. It is also an extremely difficult book to review without giving away spoilers for long time fans of the series-and entirely impossible to talk about without spoiling those who haven’t read Into the Fire, the previous novel (reviewed here).
Then again, it seems that most hardcore fans (otherwise known as rabid fangrrrrrls) have either read it already or sought out all the possible spoilers leaked by those in the know-including some that proved to be utterly wrong, put out by many people who didn’t know jack-while the more casual readers who aren’t as invested in any one character (or pairing thereof) really don’t see what the big deal is.
(Yes, there are casual readers who enjoy Ms Brockmann’s books quite a bit but are not so invested in a particular character that they would vow to trash/not read/hate a book if so-and-so don’t end up together-my significant other, for example.)
All of the above to say, with quite a bit of pain, that there be a few spoilers in this here review. I consider them very small spoilers, but still. So consider yourselves warned.
In fact, the blurb gives away more of the plot that I would normally share in a review, so read at your own risk:
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 at The Agency.
For years, operative James Nash has performed ultracovert “Black Ops” missions for The Agency, but when he decides 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 Gaffari, 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.
As usual with Ms Brockmann’s work, there are a number of characters who narrate the action-Jules Cassidy, FBI agent, and Lawrence Decker, Tess Bailey, Jimmy Nash, David Malkoff, Sophia Gaffari, Tracy Shapiro, all Troubleshooters, Inc. employees.
The novel opens with one of the most intense prologues I’ve ever read, told from Dave Malkoff’s point of view. In the actual timeline, this scene happens close to the end of the action, but it bridges the gap between the end of Into the Fire and the events of Dark of Night. From there, the reader is pulled into a roller coaster of action and emotion that doesn’t seem to let up until after the 400th page mark.
And yet… I’m conflicted about my feelings for this novel-to the point that it has taken me three weeks and a re-read to finish this review. On the one hand, I’m vaguely dissatisfied with this novel. On the other hand, I am not quite sure why I feel this way.
One of the main things that draw me to Ms Brockmann’s work is how well she draws her characters. Almost without exception, we are introduced to someone, we form an opinion of him/her, and then we both get to know that person better and to see him/her grow into a better person. So, character development in Dark of Night? Is there, for most of the characters who have points of view/narrative-exception being Tracy.
We are told-by Tracy, by Decker, etc.-how much she’s grown since her introduction to the cast some three books ago. I think, though, that the newcomer to the series doesn’t see much change in her from first to last page of the novel. To them, she is smart, funny, self-aware, capable, good at her job, empathetic and friendly throughout.
Yet for long time readers, the contrast with how we are expected to see her in Dark of Night vs the little glimpse of her in Into the Fire is a little too jarring. While there had been hints of Tracy’s actual personality, intelligence, resourcefulness, etc., here and there in the previous two books where she has a secondary role (Into the Storm and Into the Fire), there is a rather large leap in character development in the two or so intervening months from the end of Into the Fire to the events of Dark of Night.
Even more jarring, though, is being told that Decker has always felt attraction for Tracy.
Color me extremely surprised-even though I was one of those readers of Into the Storm who liked Tracy and who speculated early on that she would be a good match for Decker. But here’s the thing, I cannot think of any one instance in the intervening books were there’s the smallest hint of Decker having given Tracy more than a passing glance or vice versa. Had this been a stand alone novel, I would take the statement at face value and move on, but having read every book in the series more than once… well, it’s a tad disconcerting.
With that said… I loved the chemistry between these two. Loved. It.
Tracy’s brashness is the perfect counterpart to Decker’s self-containment. Here is a man who has kept himself apart for most of his adult life, and a woman who doesn’t recognize barriers. This is one of those cases for which the phrase, “opposites attract” was coined. Note, I don’t know what, other than work and sexual chemistry, these two have in common, and wouldn’t want to bet on their long term chances (so a wedding in three weeks would probably made me wince) but the potential for a healthy relationship is clearly there.
And I for one, am rooting for them.
Dave Malkoff has been a favorite character of mine since his introduction in Flashpoint. From online discussions, I know that some readers found him either too geeky or too passive, as well as a little too willing to step back from pursuing Sophia-in deference to her stated love for Decker, or perhaps because Dave always thought Decker couldn’t but love her back.
(Me, I fell head over heels for the man who was sick enough to put his own IV on, after hours spend alternatively helping dig out kids from a buried school and vomiting his guts out. But that’s not in this book, so… moving on.)
I have wanted Dave to find happiness with someone who loves him just as much as he loves her, and for a long while I doubted that his regard for Sophia could ever be returned with the same depth and breadth of feeling. I’m happy to say that by the end of the novel I was convinced that Sophia can and does love him back with the same intensity-even if he is still the more outwardly giving of the two.
No, I don’t see his selflessness towards Sophia as doormat-tendencies. I think that for far too long Dave saw himself as the geeky best friend who never gets the girl who continues to offer his shoulder, his ears, his help and his love to his beloved, asking for nothing in return. In fact, expecting to get nothing beyond friendship. If having Sophia returns his desire was, therefore, much more than Dave would have ever thought possible, it’s easy to imagine how difficult it would be for him to accept that she actually loves him right back.
As for Sophia, this is the book where I like her the most, frankly. I have liked her well enough for the most part-save her fixation with Decker and her seeming obliviousness of Dave’s feelings for her. The first took some of Sophia’s strength cred, in my eyes, and the later felt a little too self-centered. Plus, did I mention that I adore Dave?
However, I really liked how Sophia held her own in Dark of Night, and her realization of the depth of her feelings for Dave. And having her hold a-finally!-sincere conversation with Decker? Well, that just put icing on the cake for me.
Where Jimmy Nash and Tess are concerned, I’m a bit less clear. Don’t get me wrong, this is a couple I have liked from the word go, but I don’t think they have an easy road ahead. A bit easier by the end of the novel than it’s been in the years since the events of Flashpoint, yes, but not easy. Nash may have stopped drinking and womanizing, but he is still insecure about his own self-worth-and thus, insecure about Tess’ love.
Finally, I love all the other cameos and secondary characters. Having Sam Starrett chop veggies with a K-bar knife while dispensing relationship advice? Priceless. López saying, “maybe it’s just my day to see everyone I know naked”? Priceless. My favorite, bar none, though, is having Robin grab half of the sandwich Sam makes for Jules. Or rather, how that scene shows the continued growth of the relationship between these two.
And as usual, the dialogue-both internal and between characters-is great. One can hear these people think and talk like… well, real people.
So that takes care of the characterization and relationship angles, and we are left with the suspense side of the novel… and here is where I am most conflicted. There is a higher than usual level of implausibility in Dark of Night which, for me, wasn’t as well balanced with what the characters-as real people-would do, as usual in the Troubleshooters books.
For example, I had some issues with some of the people involved, as well as with who wasn’t involved. For example, we are to believe that Jules undertook-on his own, unsanctioned-an operation of this magnitude on the strength of his knowledge of Decker and Nash. I can accept this. But I have trouble accepting that, in the two months since, Jules hasn’t approached Max Baghat-who is both his boss and a close friend-and explained the situation.
Color me skeptical on that one.
On the same vein, I can understand Decker stressing the importance of keeping the secret between a minimum number of people, but not telling Tom? Tom, who is not only the owner and head of Troubleshooters, Inc., but also the man who hired Nash only because Decker asked him to. Doesn’t quite jibe with Decker as we know him.
I won’t even go into how it would seem that way too many SEALs and assorted other Navy personnel seem to be strangely available—during our previous President’s tenure, mind—to spend time doing stuff with, and for, Tommy and his company.
The impression I got through the first three hundred pages of Dark of Night is that this is a well-funded group, and while not necessarily huge, at least big enough to cover all the bases-surveillance, intelligence, direct spying, etc. To say that the truth let me down is to understate the case.
Because Ms Brockmann works hard, during the first three hundred and oh, eighty? ninety? pages to show the reader that the bad guys are not just eeeeevil, but nigh omnipotent. Not only have they managed to manipulate Jimmy Nash for years, but also have kept their trail so well covered he-well trained, resourceful, smart, nigh-invincible himself-hasn’t been able to sniff their identities out.
What really and truly irked me, though, was the last ten pages. The pacing, which had been almost frantic up to then, suddenly just… stopped dead. No more showing, just some-quite brief-telling.
I mean, I can see that this novel is already over four hundred pages and perhaps there is some fear that the reader would put it down if it went on much longer but really, the last chapter? It felt as if someone had said, “Okay, that’s it-wrap it up”.
So I am torn. What I love about Dark of Night, I truly love. What I didn’t like, really bothers me-and this is mostly on the continuity-within-the-series aspect.
8.25 out of 10