EXIT STRATEGY - Kelley Armstrong
This is not a new trend, presenting our leading man or lady as belonging to a profession not generally regarded as one in which you might find a worthy hero. EXIT STRATEGY is narrated also in the first person, so the character of Nadia, the ex-cop-turned-killer, is given some space to present some self-justification for murderous acts. This whole bad-girl-with-a-heart act can work, but it needs some sterling work put into the characterization. It's not necessary to always love or even like the lead, but you need to be at least impressed by them in some fashion, if only to admire how clever a villain they are. Very difficult to find any of that here in EXIT STRATEGY, which rather coldly puts together a group of people with yes, a common goal, and not a heart between them.
While this "thriller" picks up the pace as it progresses, introducing new bad guys along the way, EXIT STRATEGY struggles to find the logical twists and turns, meandering about with any discernable direction other than to eventually end what becomes an interminable and mind-numbing read. Paranormal romance readers who may have drifted across in loyalty may find their hopes bolstered however with the possibility of a romance in future works, threaded none-too-subtly in this first novel of the series. The future plot threads are there, all but high-lighted in neon and only the romantic angle looks vaguely interesting.
Best-selling author Kelley Armstrong is better known for her "Otherworld" supernatural novels, which have included BITTEN, DIME STORE MAGIC and NO HUMANS INVOLVED.
Nadia Stafford currently holds down two jobs. One of them involves her sometimes leaving her quiet life in Canada to secretly travel to wherever it is that her clients dictate. Most recently, a small Mafia family has been her regular employer, providing a much-needed, albeit high-risk income. Nadia sees it all as a means to an end, as she badly needs those funds from her "moonlighter" to financially prop up the hunter's lodge she owns and operates close to the Canadian/US border. Her two worlds do not collide.
Occasionally Jack, also a contract killer, may turn up on her doorstep to keep her current with what's going on in the world of paid killers. This is as much as Nadia really wants to know about her peers, and she prefers to keep out of any such dangerous community. A serial killer is leading the US police a merry dance, and Jack informs her that the investigation is crossing over into their professional territory. It is the opinion of the police that their latest killer is a hitman who has become more than a little happy with his craft. Jack knows others that do as he and Nadia do, and proposes a joint effort in bringing the serial killer to justice to deflect any attention away from their own activities. Sounds good in theory, but Nadia soon discovers that of all who are now supposedly working together in Jack's group of murdering compadres, she is the one being kept in the dark as to the killer's identity. Meanwhile, the killer has now become aware of Nadia herself.