The second in Rachel Grant’s Fiona Carver series, Crash Site is the sequel to 2021’s Dangerous Ground, and it picks up around nine months after the events of the first book. Although the mystery/suspense plot here is self-contained, the central relationship between the two leads was left unresolved at the end of Dangerous Ground, so I’d advise anyone interested in this one to read that first. And that being the case, there are spoilers for the previous book in this review.
Naval Archaeologist Fiona Carver has landed herself a dream job on the gorgeous, privately owned (and fictional) Ruby Island in the Caribbean where, together with two other archaeologists, she has been employed to conduct an archaeological inventory of the island and its seventeenth century fort –which comes complete with legends of hidden Spanish gold. Fiona has known its wealthy owner Jude Reynolds (the island has been owned by his family for generations) for over a decade, from when they met as fellow students at archaeological field school – although they’re not exactly friends; she went on a date with him back then but he behaved like a complete tosser and she hasn’t seen him since. But the Ruby Island job was just too good to pass up – especially as Jude’s wealth means there will be no budget worries, and he genuinely cares about the work. He also seems to be working hard to convince Fiona that he’s not the same selfish, entitled brat he was back then – but Fiona isn’t sure how to feel about that. Sure, Jude is handsome and rich, he’s interested in her and understands her work… but she’s hung-up on someone else.
Wildlife photographer Dean Slater had been on the remote Alaskan island of Chiksook trying to find out what happened to his missing brother Dylan when he and Fiona found themselves stranded in a hostile environment and forced to rely on each other in order to survive (Dangerous Ground). The adrenaline-fuelled days they spent together engendered a real trust and closeness between them, and fed the flames of the mutual attraction that had sparked between them from their first meeting – although a basic incompatibility in their approach to sex and relationships seemed destined to separate them. Dean is unwilling to risk experiencing the hurt and devastation he felt on the death of his beloved wife from a brain tumor a decade earlier and made it very clear that he doesn’t do relationships, while Fiona has never been one for NSA sex or short-lived flings. It’s clear by the end of the book that they’re head-over-heels for one another, but Dean is adamant that he’s not about to break his no relationships rule and they part, both of them obviously unhappy and not expecting to see each other again.
It’s clear that neither has been able to forget the other over the nine months they’ve been apart, and when Fiona learns – at the very last minute – that Dean is due to arrive on the island at any moment, she’s both furious and suspicious. She’s sure that Dean wouldn’t be coming to the island had he known of her presence, and is almost certain this is a set-up. The media interest surrounding them after what happened on Chiksook was pretty intense, and she believes Jude is trying to use her and Dean to generate publicity for his new venture – a new streaming channel focusing on travel and adventure. Before she can decide what to do – should she yell at Jude, up and leave or both – the helicopter carrying Dean and a couple of other personnel explodes and crashes into the sea.
Thanks to the quick-thinking and skilful flying of the pilot Dean and everyone on board is able to escape before the helicopter pitches into the sea. He initially puts down the sight of Fiona running towards him down to disorientation – he must’ve hit his head after he jumped – but just seconds later, she’s soft and warm in his arms, crying tears of relief.
Once the initial shock of the crash – and nearly losing Dean – has worn off, Fiona begins to wonder about it – was it an accident or sabotage? If the latter, then who was the intended target? It seems, however that she’s not going to find out – the day after the crash, every single piece of wreckage has disappeared, leaving nothing for the not-yet-arrived crash investigators to go on. But the crash is only the beginning of a series of disasters as Fiona and Dean are thrown from one life-threatening situation to another… clearly there’s something about Ruby Island that someone is prepared to go to great lengths to conceal – and who has decided Fiona and Dean are surplus to requirements.
As in Dangerous Ground, the locations are vividly imagined and Ms. Grant does a great job of setting the scene, introducing and fleshing out the characters and setting in motion the wheels of her intriguing, complex plot. I always enjoy the way the author incorporates her impeccable research, experience and obvious knowledge and love for archaeology into her novels, and although the story is perhaps a little slow in places in the first half, things pick up considerably in the second, and the final chapters are a thrilling rollercoaster ride that had me glued to the pages.
Fiona and Dean make a great team when they’re working together and I liked them as individuals. Fiona is smart, compassionate and just a bit nerdy, and although Dean is still irritatingly stubborn about never wanting another relationship, he’s otherwise great hero material – protective, gorgeous and highly competent. They’re very intuitive as to the other’s thoughts and needs, and that part of their relationship works incredibly well, but their romance is less successful. They’re obviously very much in love, but Dean refuses to acknowledge it or contemplate having a relationship with Fiona for almost the entire book, telling himself he isn’t capable of giving her what she deserves. He’s completely honest about not wanting a relationship and the reasons for it, and those are clear and well-articulated, but Ms. Grant did such a good job of convincing me that Violet (his late wife) was the love of his life and that he really wasn’t ready to move on, that by the time he gets his head out of his arse as regards Fiona, I wasn’t completely convinced by his about-turn (and thought he should have grovelled a bit more!) The fact that this happens on practically the last page doesn’t help with that – but if there are to be more books in this series, then perhaps we’ll get to see their relationship develop from the HFN we get here.
The suspense plot is tense, exciting and well put-together, and even though I’d have liked a little more certainty in the romance, I enjoyed Crash Site and would recommend it to fans of romantic suspense.