Monday, June 22, 2009

A Perfect 10: FATAL SECRETS by Allison Brennan

FATAL SECRETS - Allison Brennan
2009 FBI Trilogy – Book 2
A Perfect 10
Ballantine Books
ISBN: 978-0-345-50275-9
June 2009
Romantic Suspense

Sacramento, California; the Sierra Nevada Mountains - Present Day

Twenty-one years ago, Sonia Martin was sold into slavery by her father, but she was miraculously saved by Texas Ranger Wendall Knight. Later adopted into the Knight family, she received all the love and support she had been missing as a child. Now a Senior Agent in the Immigration & Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE), and considered an expert on the subject, Sonia Knight has dedicated her life to saving other children and women from needless abuse and the horrors of human trafficking.

Acting on a tip from an informant, Sonia and her team have been watching the massive home of Xavier Jones, the middleman responsible for arranging at least 20% of the human trafficking problem in the United States. She’s been patiently waiting, hoping to locate thirteen year-old Maya who’s been abducted, and Sonia feels tonight is the night to catch Jones in the act. Feeling the taste of success as it approaches, Sonia can’t believe her eyes when the place is raided by the FBI!

Feeling anger and frustration as she sees years of work go out the window, she’s greeted by a tall and very commanding brown-eyed man as he exits one of the trucks. Clearly, he’s in charge, but she has no idea who he is. Dean Hooper calmly advises Sonia that he’s there to serve a partial warrant to get some definitive financial information, and she assumes he’s just another agent. A successful lobbyist on the surface, Xavier Jones’s savvy business dealings seem to be on the up and up, and Hooper has been relentless in his pursuit to find something wrong. The warrant may not nail Jones, but Hooper still hopes the invasion of his personal space will make him nervous and irritated enough to make a mistake.

While their motives are decidedly different --- Dean is after a racketeering charge and Sonia a trafficking charge --- they both want Jones and whomever he’s working with locked up forever. Sonia then finds out she’s been verbally sparring with the Assistant Director of the FBI. Sonia is good at her job, but she doesn’t play well with others after being burned by her last partner. Realizing they are on the same team, each possessing the special skills needed to get the bad guy, Sonia grudgingly agrees to meet to share all she knows about her case. Dean knows some of her background and can’t help but admire her courage and beauty, but he puts his attraction on a back burner. Sonia is angry, and doesn’t appreciate the interference of the FBI, but something about Dean Hooper makes her hot. As the plot thickens however, Hooper and Knight can’t hide their feelings any longer. Now understanding that Jones is the least of their worries, they are targeted by a heinous criminal determined to eliminate them by any means necessary. Sonia is forced to revisit the brutal violence and tragedy she suffered in a way she never expects as the situation becomes more personal.

As Allison Brennan passionately delves right into the second book of her FBI series, FATAL SECRETS, the reader is immediately treated to a fast-paced thriller that will be impossible to put down. She has created a taut suspense story with a premise that may be a little unsettling, but is nonetheless factual and well researched. The crime of human trafficking is unthinkable, forcing readers to wonder about the plight of these defenseless victims. I enjoyed Sonia’s personality as the feisty and attractive central character. Not very trusting of men, and not interested in permanent relationships, it’s ironic to see her in what has been considered a vocation traditionally geared toward men, but she’s all woman. Dean Hooper is a gorgeous take-charge guy with great intuition and smoldering sensitivity; he knows how to hold his own. Unfortunately, his career hasn’t allowed him to commit to anyone special. I couldn’t help falling a little in love with him myself. The other characters interspersed throughout this tale are equally absorbing, including the villains. The common link driving this story will keep you on the edge of your seat until the surprising conclusion. My only complaint is that I have to wait a little while longer for Brennan’s next book, as I’m now experiencing withdrawal. FATAL SECRETS is a romantic suspense you should run, not walk, to pick up today, and that’s why it deserves a Perfect 10.

Allegra Alston

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