The Prey

Allison Brennan
2006, Romantic Suspense
Ballantine, $6.99, 395 pages, Amazon ASIN 0345480236
Part of a series

Grade: B-
Sensuality: Hot

With a second half considerably better than the first, The Prey marks a promising debut for new romantic suspense author Allison Brennan.

Former FBI agent Rowan Smith is now a bestselling author of crime novels whose books are currently being made into movies. When a woman with the same name as one or her characters is murdered in exactly the same way as the woman in her book, it doesn’t take long for police – and Rowan – to make the connection. When matters escalate and another copycat murder occurs, Rowan reluctantly agrees to the bodyguard protection the movie studio wants to hire.

The protection comes in the form of former cop Michael Flynn, along with his brother John and sister Tess. Though Rowan is anything but happy about the protection – as a former FBI agent she believes that she is more than capable of protecting herself – she soon begins to form a bond with Michael, while her bodyguard becomes more and more attracted to her. When clues point to the fact that the killer knows very private information about Rowan’s background and that she is clearly a target, Michael’s brother John, a former Delta Force operative, steps in to assist him in his efforts to keep Rowan safe.

From the beginning, Rowan recognizes John as a far more lethal proposition than his far nicer guy brother. And, not surprisingly, as the danger mounts and the killer gets closer and closer to Rowan, the sparks between them begin to fly.

Since this is one of those books in which it’s best to let the plot unfold as the author intended, I won’t go any further than that with plot description. In fact, if the cover copy didn’t give it away, I’d even be reluctant to let you know that John – not Michael – is the hero of the book.

What works here are the characters and, for the most part, a smooth writing style with a nice sense of momentum – well, at least in the second half. Sad to say, I found the background exposition of Rowan and a host of other characters (many of whom aren’t even in the book) to weigh down the first half and to be more than little bit clumsy. Do I really need to know the name of the bitch who somehow double-crossed Michael ages ago? Maybe it’s just me, but when an author starts including names and other detailed information, I start to think this is something I should know from a previous book, but, since this is the author’s debut, that didn’t seem altogether likely. Frankly, there’s so much of this stuff in the book’s first half, I was surprised at how well the second half works.

As for the characters, Rowan is likable and intriguing enough, even if she seemed a bit slow to acknowledge the danger to herself. John is one of those standard-issue ex-special forces tough guys and, if you like that brand of Brockmann-esque hero, you’ll very likely enjoy him.

Though no new ground is broken here, The Prey is a satisfying enough effort that may well please those who enjoy romantic suspense. Though I can’t say I’ll go out of my way to read the soon-to-be upcoming sequels – The Hunt will be published in February and the The Kill not long after – I’m definitely noting Allison Brennan as an author to watch.

-- Sandy Coleman

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