B.J. Daniels’s Crossfire is an effective action/suspense story about a SWAT team’s attempts to defuse a hostage situation. While the premise doesn’t allow for much romance, it’s still a good read and one of the best books in the Code Red continuity series so far.
Five years ago, Anna Carson was engaged to police officer Flint Mauro. Their relationship came to an end when they argued about Anna’s career goals. She wanted to train to be a SWAT paramedic, a job that would routinely place her in dangerous situations. Having grown up without a mother, Flint didn’t want his children to do the same, and he insisted she not take such a dangerous job. Anna was furious that he would hold her to a double standard when he had a dangerous job of his own. She cut off the engagement and left Courage Bay, California to train in Washington D.C., where she successfully became a SWAT paramedic.
Now Anna is back in Courage Bay to fill the same role on her hometown’s SWAT team. But when she reports for work her first day, she’s stunned to learn that Flint is now the SWAT team commander. For his part, Flint didn’t want a paramedic on his team at all, let alone his former fiancée. But they don’t have time to dwell on their personal issues when news of a hostage situation reaches them. Armed gunmen have taken over City Hall and are holding hostages, including three members of the city council. Flint and Anna have to work together to resolve the situation, even if it means putting their own lives on the line.
This is a good example of a story that’s well-suited to the series format and couldn’t be done in a single-title without losing much of what makes it so effective. Nearly all of the action takes place on a single day as we watch this hostage crisis unfold. There are no subplots or extraneous matters. The focus is kept on this situation and the characters involved in it, which makes for a fast-paced and tense read.
Daniels effectively opens up her story by letting it unfold through the perspectives of several different characters. As the book begins, we’re not only introduced to the hero and heroine, but to a number of key players in the hours before they all converge on City Hall. A city councilwoman with a vendetta. An aide with a suspicious past. An old man determined to get justice after his wife was killed in an earthquake aftershock when rescue workers couldn’t get to her in time. A junkie with a plan to use the old man’s grief get rich quick. Though the plot doesn’t allow for the deepest character development, we get the chance to learn a little about each of them shortly before the hostage crisis develops, seeing everyone’s motives and how they all collide. This gives the reader a little more investment in the characters and allows us to understand where they’re coming from, particularly the hostage takers.
Similarly, Anna and Flint aren’t the deepest characters, but they’re good leads for this type of story. They’re both strong and courageous professionals as they work together to insert themselves in the hostage situation and try to bring it to an end. Of course, the tightened timeframe and narrow focus of the storyline don’t leave much room for a love story. This is basically a book where the hero and heroine are reunited and, through the danger they experience, realize they still love each other over the course of the day. While some of the author’s attempts at character growth aren’t entirely convincing, the romance element is still nicely done. The amount that’s here feels appropriate for the plot (i.e. they don’t do a lot of mooning over each other when they have more important things to think about). The characters have enough chemistry that a relationship between them was believable and I was happy to see them reunited in the end.
Crossfire is a fast-paced and exciting story that held me from start to finish. I wouldn’t necessarily choose it looking for a great love story, but readers who enjoy action and suspense should find it an entertaining read.