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Dana Martin gives us a dark and vengeful hero in this latest in the Civilian Personnel Recovery Unit series.
I didnt quite know what to make of Light Walker when we first meet him. He is one angry dude out to avenge the death of his younger brother. He left the SEALs and is now a mercenary for hire who doesnt think twice about killing.
Clara Roberts typically found and retrieved US citizens and got them back home whether alive or dead. She's about to take a leave from her job to go and help her father through his chemo when instead he sends her on a mission into Mexico to find a missing young woman. Her father asks Walker to be her guide and muscle to help. The two embark on a harrowing trek through the Mexican jungle running from banditos and the deadly wildlife of the jungle.
Walker goes through quite the transformation through out the book. He's lived for so long looking for the man that killed his brother and killing any bad guys in the way he figured he didnt have a heart left. Clara surprisingly makes his dead heart start beating again and he has to decide what's more important – his need for revenge and not caring about anything or to come back to being a human being that cares about someone.
In my opinion, this is the best Dana Marton romantic suspense yet. It's no wonder that it's a 2016 RITA Award Winner. As the second book in the Civilian Personnel Recovery Unit, it is also a great standalone with an HEA. I absolutely loved it, as I did book one, and can't wait for the next book in the series. Light Walker is a man obsessed. A former Navy SEAL, he now works as a mercenary in Mexico, with a long game of finding and killing the man who murdered his younger brother, Ben. The DOD did him a favor along the way, however, and they've just called it in. Former forensic accountant Clara Roberts is a DOD Civilian Personnel Recovery Unit Investigator finishing up a job in Mexico when she gets a call from her father, retired General Roberts, the head of the CPRU. He tasks her with another recovery, this one off the books. After telling her who and why, Clara is shaken, but on board. There won't be an official liaison, though, so her father arranges for a private one. But when he's three days late for their rendezvous, Clara decides to proceed without him. Which is why Walker finds her in the local cantina being strong armed by Pedro, the corrupt human trafficking head of the local police. After Walker permanently takes care of Pedro, they escape into the jungle, running from Pedro's men, and Walker begins his campaign of 'encouraging' Clara to go home. But Clara is tougher than she looks and she's determined she's not leaving Mexico without her target. Walker's game is in play, though, and if he can't get her to leave, he'll have to find a way to keep her alive.
Dana Marton has surprised me yet again. After Forced Disappearance, I thought I knew what to expect from her, but instead Flash Fire kept me guessing every step of the way, in turns intensely action-packed, filled with danger, and hilariously funny. I'm not even certain if Ms Marton intended this to be a funny book but there are so many parts of the story that tickled my funny bone just right. There were some excellent laugh out loud moments that were very memorable. It's not comedy, slapstick funny, but funny in keeping with the high adrenalin story. Perhaps Ms Marton intended the funny bits to tone down the intensely dangerous situation Walker and Clara were in?
"No matter what her father wanted, no way was Clara going to partner up with Light Walker. He’d suggested a tarantula for a snack, for heaven’s sake."
Walker might just be the most badass hero I have ever met. He's utterly ruthless and unapologetic about his behaviour and he's a complete guy's guy.
"The shorts had been a bad idea, he could tell that right then and there. They were a light material, red, an inch-long lace edging the hems. Combined with cowboy boots, they created an interesting effect. In his pants. "
But he's also funny while being a guy's guy.
"The thought of her long legs wrapped around his waist definitely held appeal. Except, while he was contemplating talking her out of her pants, the look in her eyes said she was contemplating shooting him. "
"She must have had an odd expression on her face, because he said, “Hey, don’t look so scared. C4 is actually pretty stable. You could juggle with it and nothing would happen.” He probably did juggle explosives. Sweet Jungle Jesus. "
And he's kind and compassionate even though those finer qualities are buried deep down within him and he keeps a lid on it. On a black and white scale, Walker is all shades of grey but mostly bordering on black. He's an awesome hero and exactly the kind of guy you want by your side in a dangerous and difficult situation, but I don't think he's life partner material as he is. Fortunately, as he gets to know Clara, she helps him rediscover his finer qualities and she makes him want to be a better man. Kudos to Clara for accepting Walker as he is and trying to change him. Walker lives by his own code of right and wrong, and I loved he does figure out what's right, what's wrong and what's worth living for.
"It was down to her and Walker. Loose cannon Walker. No allegiance Walker. Cares about nothing but his own agenda Walker."
I like Clara. She's strong, brave and tenacious as hell. Kind of like a dog with a bone. She just doesn't let go.
"She was no GI Jane by any means, but there was a doggedness about her that was beginning to worry him. She might be a rookie investigator, but so far she’d stood up to everything he’d thrown at her. He was beginning to have a dreadful suspicion that she might be more difficult to get rid of than he had first anticipated."
Thrust in a situation she neither understands nor can she get out of without help, Clara is tough and resilient. She's also somewhat naive until Walker opens her eyes to the reality of the situation she is in.
This story was one hell of a ride from start to finish even though at the start, the situation surrounding Clara being asked to go on this particular recovery assignment was a little distasteful, but it all comes full circle at the end. All is not what it seems.
I'm really impressed with Ms Marton's writing and storytelling and I'm looking forward to the next book.
I really enjoyed reading Flash Fire. Claire is the type of heroine I like, unshakeable, logical, with vulnerability. Walker is the type of hero I like, tough, Alpha, with a buried conscience. The vendetta Walker was on made sense and definitely moved the story forward. And Claire's mission was also well motivated.
I had to really suspend my disbelief when Claire's only thought was bringing her Glock to Brunhilda. Although I realize being who she was, organized and frugal, she wanted the gun to go to Walker, but since she was trying to get out of the country, she simply could have hidden it and left. And then, the entire reason why SHE had to be the one to rescue Rosita should have been addressed. Ms. Marton should have written the scene where Claire and her father talked and she revealed what Rosita had told her. It would have also been nice to learn what the outcome was to Rosita's cousin and aunt. It was a major piece of the plot.