Get ready to have your conscience pricked. A hot, new hitwoman recently entered the business and she could become a legend if she so chooses. So what would hold her back? She was once a cop.
Nadia Stafford was born into a law enforcement family and joined the ranks after graduating high school. Also driving her to bring in the bad guys was a childhood incident involving a cousin, which resulted in the cousin’s rape and murder. While making a routine arrest one day, the circumstances remind her a bit too much of her that childhood trauma and she snaps, killing the suspect. She’s pushed into early “retirement” in her mid-20s and now must find a whole new life. She buys a lodge, but things start to slide downhill financially. Her friends and family have basically abandoned her because of the “incident” and she has no idea how she is going to save her life from swirling down the toilet. Until, that is, a member of the Mafia comes to her lodge and offers her a new job. And so Nadia Stafford, to avert bankruptcy and to douse some of the fire that’s been burning in her gut, takes on a new identity and becomes a hitwoman.
The reader is teased with Nadia’s background information throughout the book. When we first see Nadia, she’s been practicing her new profession for about six years and her lodge is doing quite well. She returns home from a hit to find her mentor, Jack, waiting for her. Jack is another hitman who sought her out, probably to make sure that she wasn’t an undercover cop, and then began teaching her some moves. A serial killer known as the Helter Skelter Killer is scaring the nation, killing people at random…all the while leaving behind no clues. Jack has learned that the Feds believe the killer is a professional hitman and some other hitmen are getting together to bring him down. Why? Well, it could be bad for business if professional assassins are associated with psycho, serial killers. Jack offers Nadia a place on the team as his partner, leaves her a plane ticket, and fades into the night.
This is the first of many moral dilemmas that Nadia faces throughout the story. She wants to go after the serial killer because she knows it’s the right thing to do – and she wants to bring in the bad guy. Well, no, actually she wants to kill the bad guy. But, she also doesn’t want to put herself too far into the life of crime that she already frequents. She doesn’t want the other hitmen to find out who she is, her background, anything. But once she makes up her mind to take the job, she’s all in.
There were several things that I didn’t like in this book, but the biggest one of all was the moral issue. Nadia was raised in a family of cops, was one herself, and now she’s a hired gun. That weighed on my mind throughout the entire book, and because so much was left in the dark, the lack of logic frustrated me. I understood that Nadia was trying to go after Mafia thugs, but she’s being paid by the very guys who she would have been putting away not long ago. And there is more to it than a mental decision. She has a burning, physical desire to “get” these people, and not just bring them to justice, but to put them permanently out of commission. She sees a teenage boy in an airport talking about roughing up his girlfriend. Yes, that’s nasty and he needs to be stopped. But, Nadia gets all predatory and starts envisioning tailing him and taking him out. She really does have a killer in her and it was somewhat difficult to reconcile that person with the officer of the law.
The other main issue I had was that so much was left unexplained. This is supposed to be the first book in a series, but I still felt unsatisfied at the end. Jack is a complete enigma. He speaks in short, incomplete sentences, and never says anything real about himself. There are hints that he is interested in Nadia as more than a protégé, but he never opens his mouth enough to get that point across. In fact, she almost hooks up with another guy. Then, there are some things about Nadia herself that are left unknown. What really happened to her as a child? Of course, the author might have pulled a good move here, because I want to figure out some of these things so bad that I’m strongly considering reading the next book in the series.
On the other hand, the book’s action interested and involved me. The final action scene with the killer is phenomenal and got my heart pumping. So, though there were some aspects of the book that bothered me, I was left so intrigued that I want to learn more about Nadia, despite my aversion to some of her thoughts. I was looking for my own exit strategy at the beginning of the book, but now I think I’ll be hunting Nadia down when she makes another appearance.