A housewife joins a covert agency out to thwart a terrorist faction in the James’ debut action thriller.
Stay-at-home mom Tessa Scott, hoping for some relaxation while her husband, Robert, and their kids are away, is thrust into a new world when a Libyan terrorist comes looking for a bomb he believes is in her house. Capt. Chase Hunter of the Enigma Agency comes to her aid, and the bright, resourceful woman proves to be an asset to the team as it tries to prevent terrorists from stealing isotopes—elements for, among other purposes, diagnosing diseases. James’ novel, which boasts a resilient protagonist suddenly finding herself in far-fetched situations, sharply fuses humor and sincerity: Watching Tessa continually flee seemingly untrustworthy agents is funny, but her physical revulsion to murder is a reminder of her quotidian home life. Gunfights, hostage situations and even a forest fire propel the action, but the novel’s characters are its best feature. Relationships, for one, play more like soap opera than thriller: Enigma agent Samantha flirts with computer tech Vernon, but she seems envious of Tessa’s connection to Chase. Agent Carter has his eyes on all women, and all the men seem drawn to Tessa. The novel’s dramatic conflict is enhanced by Tessa’s uncertainty as to whom she can trust. The males, frankly, don’t stand a chance against the females: Sam, whose interrogations involve a gun and who repeatedly refers to the housewife protagonist as “Betty Crocker”; Honey Lynch, a beautiful and potentially lethal woman; and Claudia, the socially inept, mildly autistic Enigma librarian. Some of Tessa’s predicament stems from credulity-straining coincidence—she’s one of only a few who know the location of a vault where hostages are being held—but this is at least acknowledged by Tessa as “divine intervention,” which she genuinely believes.
A substantial thriller further improved by its female leads.