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Book Cover Wendy the Super Librarian‘s review of Pulling The Trigger (Kenner County Crime Unit Series) by Julie Miller
Contemporary romantic suspense released by Harlequin Intrigue 9 Jun 09

Harlequin is my last hold-out for impulse buys. Shorter page counts at a lower price make me more open to navigating uncharted waters. I’ve discovered a lot of great new-to-me writers this way, but I’ve also had my fair share of duds. While I would hardly classify Julie Miller’s latest as a dud, I must have been asleep at the wheel when I purchased it because I failed to notice the “Kenner County Crime Unit” series logo smack in the middle of the front cover. For those not familiar with the previous books in this multi-author series, the beginning of Pulling The Trigger is a bit of bumpy ride. However, those readers willing to stick with it will be rewarded with a page-turning cat-and-mouse style suspense story.

Joanna Rhodes left Kenner City, Colorado determined not to look back. Growing up on the reservation, with two parents chained to the nearest whiskey bottle, meant Joanna’s childhood was particularly harrowing. In order to survive, she had to get out. She’s since gotten herself an Ivy League education, through the grueling training at Quantico, and is now an FBI agent in Washington D.C. She’s also in line for a serious promotion, but in order to show her superiors that she’s got what it takes, she needs to return to Colorado and interview Sherman Watts. Watts has been linked to the murder of another FBI agent, and the Kenner City Crime Unit has been looking to nail him. Joanna wants to nail him to, but for entirely different reasons.

Joanna knew it wasn’t going to be easy confronting her past, but running into Ethan Bia again makes her trip home that much harder. Ethan was the boy she loved, and lost, breaking his heart when she fled Colorado. As much as she had to run away from home, Ethan could not leave it. He’s a part of the land, now working as a tracker for the KCCU after a couple tours in Afghanistan. He never forgot Joanna, and has his own guilt for the demise of their relationship. He was supposed to protect her, he failed, she left. And now she’s confronting her past in the form of Sherman Watts, a snake who is proving to be most elusive. Before the cops can haul him in for questioning, he takes off.

There’s quite a bit of series baggage here, and numerous characters to keep track of. The prologue drops the reader right in the middle of the series, and it’s a little confusing for those not in the know. That said, by the end of the first chapter, the author does a really good job getting the reader up to speed. Dead FBI agent, mob families, missing pile of money, and in the middle of it all is Sherman Watts. The author also seamlessly weaves in other elements that will be fodder for the next two books in the series.

The cat-and-mouse hunt for Sherman Watts keeps the pages turning, although I found the romance a little on the light side. It helps that Joanna and Ethan share a history together, but with so much series-baggage and so many secondary characters, there were times when I felt that they got lost in the shuffle. I also felt that there were more than a few holes in Joanna’s back story. Her history with Sherman Watts is particularly traumatic, that one has to wonder how she managed to make it past the FBI’s army of psychologists. Also, Ethan has been back in town for a while, living in the vicinity of Watts. I couldn’t understand why he hadn’t gone after Watts long before now, regardless of whether Joanna was in the picture of not. He doesn’t make Watts his personal mission until after Joanna is back in town, and given the severity of the man’s crimes, this didn’t ring true to me. Certainly Ethan is a stand-up guy, but he’s also the kind of Alpha dog who would rip someone’s throat out for messing with his woman. Never mind that it happened over 10 years ago.

For me this was just an OK read. I easily kept turning the pages, and found the suspense thread particularly fast-paced. That said, I don’t feel any sort of burning motivation to go back and read the other books in the series. Those already hooked will undoubtedly want to read this story, and pick up on the clues Miller leaves behind for future installments.

Wendy TSLGrade: C+

It had been more than ten years since tracker Ethan Bia had seen the woman who’d loved him and left him with no explanation. FBI agent Joanna Rhodes was as beautiful and secretive as ever, but insisted on keeping their past—and their passion—where it belonged. Ethan knew tracking an elusive killer through the mountains was their assignment, but his need for answers was as tempting as his urge to touch Joanna. Unfortunately, resisting both was crucial to surviving this mission. A mission that would determine how long Joanna stuck around once it was over….
Read an excerpt.

Other books in this series:

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