Into the Fire

Suzanne Brockmann
February 2009 reissue of 2008 release, Romantic Suspense
Ballantine, $7.99, 496 pages, Amazon ASIN 0345501543
Part of a series

Grade: B-
Sensuality: Warm

I have been following Brockmann’s Troubleshooters series from the beginning and, for the most part, have thoroughly enjoyed the ride. Into the Fire brings Vinh Murphy out of the darkness in which he’s been hiding since his wife, Angelina, was shot and killed during an assignment in Hot Target. Izzy Zanella also plays a big part in the story, as do Decker, Sophia, and Dave. While I sat glued to the pages of this book, the various romances did not satisfy as much as others in this series. There were also a couple of issues introduced that could make me very upset if they aren’t resolved well in the next installment that comes out in hardback at the same time as this paperback release.

Vinh Murphy has existed in an alcohol/drug-induced fog for three years, ever since the murder of his wife. He drops in occasionally on his best friend, Hannah, who has also been using alcohol to deal with life. Angelina was her best friend as well; in fact she introduced the two and encouraged their relationship despite being in love with Vinh herself. Vinh blames the Freedom Network’s leader, Tim Ebersole, for Angelina’s death (which is valid, since it was the neo-Nazi organization’s fault that she died) and occasionally goes on rants about how he’s going to take him out. When he drops in on Hannah one night, drunk and high as usual, tries to break into her uncle’s gun case, and then leaves abruptly, she decides that she’d better go see his former employers. Unfortunately, none of the Troubleshooters have seen Murphy and when they ask her just what she thinks he’s going to do, she mentions his thoughts of killing Ebersole.

Six months later, Ebersole is found murdered and the Troubleshooters immediately start trying to find Vinh, starting with looking up Hannah. Vinh does in fact happen to be staying with Hannah at the time and when they learn what’s happening he confesses that he has no idea if he killed the man or not. He’s clean now, but he can’t remember what he was doing when the leader was murdered. So, rather than let the FBI or Troubleshooters catch them without any info, they go on their own investigation to figure out just what Murphy was doing at the time of the murder.

A lot of old characters are featured in this novel. Izzy has a very strong role and finds the girl that he’s meant to be with. Unfortunately, she’s almost eighteen when he meets her and is also the sister of his teammate, Danny Gillman, who has never liked him much to begin with. While the interplay between Eden and Izzy was interesting, I felt kind of sad that this was going to be his story. I’ve always liked Izzy and expected him to end up with someone other than a child who’s a practiced liar and more immature than he. Nash and Tess are also back, but things aren’t going great for the couple and their relationship seems to be fracturing. Decker, Sophia, and Dave are also still slogging through their difficulties and baring their souls to a psychologist that Tom has brought in. And many more make cameos, such as Stan, Mark, Lindsey, Lopez, and Jules.

This was a very tough book to grade. On the one hand, after the first quarter or so, I simply couldn’t put it down. I neglected other aspects of my life and raced through the pages, needing to know what was going to happen next. The action, when it kicked in, was really enjoyable. But, on the other hand, the main romance felt very average and will certainly rank low in the list of this series’ couples. I often skipped Vinh and Hannah’s sections to get to “the good stuff” before returning to dutifully read them. Their storyline wasn't bad, it just lacked flair.

Then, there was the fact that after I finished the book I was rather mad. The Decker/Sophia thing is not going at all as I had hoped and expected after waiting for many years to see their HEA. The next book is going to pick up immediately after this one ends and will finally be Decker’s story. How that books handles relationships set up in this book will ultimately affect how I end up feeling about this story. Depending upon how things wraps up in subsequent books, Into the Fire could be the first book of the entire series that won’t go on my shelf.

My frustration is multi-leveled. No other relationship has been introduced to cover multiple books (although it’s obvious that this is the first book of problems between Eden and Izzy). Those drawn-out relationships have been the most satisfying to me in the series, since the angst the couples go through makes the payoff that much more enjoyable. When this final multi-book relationship is resolved, I’m wondering what there will be to anticipate. Another frustration is that this Sophia/Decker relationship is strongly looking like it will not end as I and many others fans have hoped.

Also, this was the first book of the series (aside from maybe Into the Storm, which this book strongly resembles) that left me with no satisfied romantic feelings. A lot of the story has to do with death and the injustice of life, so a depressing tone covered many portions of it. If this is the direction the series is going, with books that make me frustrated and sad instead of satisfied, then I might actually be done with this series I have loved so much. Of course, that’s a lot of “what ifs;” I’m just trying to convey the fears that have plagued me since putting down this book.

In a way, Into the Fire seemed almost a Part 1 of two books. The next, Dark of Night, will come out in hardback together with the release of this book in paperback (the hardback came out in July 2008) to tie up a lot of loose ends (hopefully). This novel contains a few shocking twists, some that might displease readers, and as you can see, this book was quite the wild ride. It brought a lot of emotion out of me and had me firmly in its grasp for several hundred pages. I would give it a qualified recommendation to fans of the series, but be forewarned: You might not be thrilled with the path the author’s taking. I’ll just have to wait for the next book and see.

-- Andi Davis

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