Have you ever read a book that works in one category but not another? That was my primary issue with Close Pursuit. Cindy Dees’ latest suspense novel requires a certain suspension of disbelief, but works quite well as a thriller. Well enough that I often pictured it as an action movie as I read. However, as with many action movies, the romance just felt tacked on and more than a bit out of place at times.
The opening of this book requires that suspension of disbelief that I just mentioned. After all, this book calls on the reader to accept that an everyday kindergarten teacher would just happen to speak an obscure Near Eastern language and that an organization would send said teacher on a highly dangerous mission into a war zone with just one other person for assistance. If you can get past that, though, the story picks up quickly.
Kindergarten teacher Katie McCloud just happened to learn the native language of Zaghastan while working in an immigrant community, and so she has been sent to assist doctor Alex Peters on a mission to deliver babies in a remote village where local rebels have prevented women from accessing medical care. Their mission is dangerous because if they are caught, they will likely be killed. We follow Katie and Alex as they camp out in a tent, delivering babies with very little by way of medicine and equipment.
The author does do a good job of helping readers to get to know Katie and Alex in the early chapters of the book before the plot action really kicks into high gear. We learn that Katie comes from a family of police and military, and that she is tired of being dismissed as the family lightweight. Naturally, we will see throughout the story that there is much more than meets the eye with her. And then there’s Alex. Alex is a child prodigy and complete genius, and Katie has been warned by her brother in military intelligence to keep an eye on him because he has something of a troublesome past and is thought to be hiding some secrets, possibly dangerous ones.
Things heat up when rebels storm the village near Katie and Alex’s outpost. The two find themselves forced to run for their lives, but even after they make it to American soil, they find they still aren’t safe. More ominously, it appears that the rebel uprising wasn’t entirely all that it appeared to be and so the two find themselves taking many twists and turns down the trail for answers. And that part of the story definitely kept me engaged. Sure, Katie has a few too many coincidentally useful connections and Alex is way too smart to be believable, but I did find them interesting and the author does throw some interesting curveballs into the story. I read a lot of plots where the characters in the book feel like they don’t know who to trust, but this is one of the few where the reader can’t always be sure who the good guys are either.
So, what really didn’t work in this story? The relationship. I could have believed in Alex and Katie getting together at some point, but the timing in the story just didn’t work. Not only do we have love scenes while the leads are actively in danger, but we have to deal with Katie’s frequent thoughts about how all Alex really needs in life is to learn about love. And she keeps thinking these things while they’re running for their lives, being debriefed, and at all kinds of other illogical moments. Instead of showing how deeply she comes to love Alex, she starts looking ridiculously Pollyanna-ish instead and that just doesn’t work.
If you like high action and can deal with improbable coincidences, Close Pursuit does have some entertaining moments. However, this is definitely one to read for the plot action and not so much for the romance.