A romantic thriller delves into the bleak emotions of a detective and an FBI agent.
Jagger Scott is the picture of a hard-boiled detective. Being orphaned and having to raise his younger sister, Sara, on his own are enough to justify a jaded worldview, but after the death of his wife, Jagger has gone from pessimism to full-on nihilism. He continues his work on the NYPD narcotics squad with zeal, but he barely gets through any given day. His characterization borders on cliché, from his bullheaded demeanor and disregard for rules to his deep emotional wounds and need for affection. The way he’s described also tells more than it shows and seems to be forcing the idea of romance rather than naturally building chemistry: “Extremely handsome didn’t cover his description. Lightly bearded, bad boy sexy. Brooding and smoky.” But when his sister ends up in a drug-induced coma, he has to jolt himself out of this depression and work to find the culprit before it’s too late. Jagger’s opposite is Peyton Morgan, an FBI agent on the trail of the serial killer who left Sara to die. Jagger’s out for blood, but Peyton is nearly as hardheaded as he is. Still, even as they run afoul of each other’s sharp edges, they find more common ground than they initially expected. Peyton, as it turns out, joined the FBI following the death of her husband and birth of her daughter, and the anguish and lonely tenderness the two share begin building toward something more even as the tension mounts and the killer remains at large. Like Jagger, Peyton is not a unique character, her determination and skill contrasting in a familiar manner with her tenderness toward her daughter, Charlotte. But while the characters, plotting, and premise all strike well-worn chords, Hern’s (Shivering Fear, 2018, etc.) execution elevates the thriller and makes it a treat for fans of the genre. The prose is solid and swift, full of movement and dialogue that keep scenes briskly paced. The characters have all the pithy exchanges and awkward misunderstandings that readers would expect, giving the romance a sense of fun despite the grim circumstances of the plot.
A darkly charming page-turner that offers familiar elements as well as wit and wisdom.