The tissue trade – the actual harvesting of human tissue – can be seen as either evil or holy. On the one hand, ruthless men can use it to gain great wealth while desecrating the dead and risking the living. On the other hand, it saves lives. Tissue from the dead can bring hope and health to those in need of transplants. This book looks at the dark side of that trade.
The FBI is not for people’s personal use. But the Alvarado family knows enough of the right people to merit pulling Special Agent Caitlyn Tierney away from her job as Local Law Enforcement Liaison and have her heading south to meet a cruise ship in the Caribbean. The Alvarados’ daughter, Maria, has not called them in forty-eight hours. Since Maria is a college student taking a vacation with girlfriends Caitlyn is not surprised that the young lady hasn’t phoned home. Fairly certain she is about to find Maria experiencing a shipboard romance and too busy to answer her phone Caitlyn is surprised to learn that the girl is in fact not onboard at all but has instead embarked on a different adventure in Guatemala.
For Maria Alvarado the cruise has always been cover for the opportunity to join an archeological expedition in her native country. Having used new technology to help pinpoint the location of a lost Mayan temple she is now ready to put her theories to work and start digging. Initially, her trip seems to be right on track. She is picked up by the handsome graduate student she has been communicating with at the cruise ship dock. The two hit it off on the drive and Maria is wondering if she will be able to score romance as well as Mayan treasure when their jeep is blocked by guerrillas. Maria uses the confusion caused by her companion’s murder to escape into the jungle. But is that choice really the safer option?
Caitlyn’s research into Maria’s expedition makes her blood run cold. The girl had thought she was joining a prestigious archeologist on a university sanctioned dig. In fact, the archeologist heading up the dig is not in Guatemala and the handsome grad student who had been Maria’s supposed contact looks nothing like the man she had skyped with and met at the pier. Most damning of all is the fact that Maria’s parents seem strangely anxious to get Caitlyn away from them now that it has turned out Maria is in their native country. It is clear the family has something to hide and if they think Caitlyn will leave without knowing what it is they are in for a big surprise.
While Ms. Lyons is not new to the suspense field this was the first time I had ever read a book by her. Unfortunately, it is not the first time I had ever encountered the tissue trade plot. While the mystery is handled well, throwing in a certain number of curves in terms of location and people involved, the subject matter still brought an unwelcome sense of familiarity to the tale that didn’t help the suspense element at all. There is only so much an author can do with this particular plot.
Adding to the sense of déjà vu was the stock nature of the characters. Caitlyn is your typical romance cop, in this case a maverick FBI agent who cares more about justice than procedure. She’s tough, tenacious and lucky. Darn lucky. Several times she should have bought it and didn’t simply because of deus ex machina. Love interest and hero Jake Carver is much like her. He is a funnier version of Caitlyn with that same lack of interest in procedure and devotion to justice.
On the positive side is their romance. Their love story, with the cautious approach both take towards a relationship, doesn’t set the pages on fire. That worked here because it made sense for both of them to be taking baby steps in that area. Each of them have tough jobs with danger a large part of that. It isn’t easy for them to date given that they both work for the FBI and it has policies regarding fraternization. The slow pacing does a wonderful job of highlighting the difficulties listed above while the way the characters treat each other emphasizes the feelings beneath the caution.
The author has a good writing style, easy to read and clear. She gives us the information we need at the time we need it. She also does a good job of utilizing her location; the exotic locale is blended gently into the background of the tale, never taking over but always a part of the story. The secondary tales that build up toward the main mystery are also handled well; we are given enough information about them to flesh them out but not so much that we are overwhelmed by what is happening.
What it comes down to in reviewing this book is that things were done well but that they met expectations so much they were almost like a good writing project rather than a work of fiction. So while I enjoyed the story – it was an easy, pleasant read – it never inspired me to want more. I could easily put it down at a moment’s notice without the burning desire to pick it back up. That burning desire is what, for me, separates an OK book from a good one.
Whether or not to recommend this book is tricky. As I said, for me it was only a slightly above average read. But if you are anxious for romantic suspense and feel like anything I said above intrigues you it might be just what you are looking for.