I Am Justice
I Am Justice is book one in Diana Munoz Stewart’s Black Ops Confidential series. It’s an action-packed tale with a satisfying romance, but it’s not entirely realistic. Fortunately, I was pretty invested in the story and enjoyed it well enough – even if I did roll my eyes on a few occasions.
Not everyone lives a life like Justice Parish’s. Rescued from a horrid existence with her grandmother, she and her younger sister were taken under the collective wing of the powerful Parish family and Justice was trained to be one of the world’s greatest female assassins. For the past several years, she has spent most of her time on covert missions in an attempt to rescue women and children from those who would do them harm. And now, it’s time for the biggest mission of her career. Justice must kill the two men responsible for establishing a notorious ring of sex traffickers, but someone has tipped them off, making her task all but impossible.
Enter Sandesh Ross, a former soldier who left his military career behind in favor of starting a humanitarian organization dedicated to bringing aid to war-torn countries. Unfortunately, this is expensive work, and Sandesh is in search of a benefactor. To him, the Parish family seems like a dream come true. They promise him a very large sum of money as long as he hires Justice as his public relations officer and allows her to accompany him on his upcoming trip to Jordan. Sandesh isn’t sure this is a good idea; Jordan is a dangerous place, and he’s reluctant to be responsible for someone as naive as he assumes Justice Parish will be, but he can’t bring himself to turn down the money they offer him.
Once they reach Jordan, it soon becomes obvious that all Sandesh’s preconceived notions about Justice are very, very wrong and she’s not at all the shrinking violet he was expecting. Instead, she’s a brash, self-assured young woman with self-defense skills to rival his own, and he quickly realizes she has an ulterior motive for wishing to join him on this trip, a motive that has absolutely nothing to do with public relations.
Justice doesn’t necessarily want to deceive Sandesh, but she knows better than to let him in on the real reason for her presence in Jordan. Telling him the truth could put her mission in jeopardy, and she can’t bear the thought of allowing two such horrible men to remain alive and continue to torture innocent young women. Plus, someone on the inside is reporting her every move to some very unsavory individuals, and Justice is determined to uncover the traitor’s identity. Clearly, putting her trust in an unknown entity like Sandesh isn’t a good idea.
As you might imagine, things go sideways pretty quickly, forcing Justice to confide in Sandesh, even though it goes against her better judgement. Now, these two unlikely allies must race against time in order to save everything and everyone Justice holds dear. Each is attracted to the other, but they’re both smart enough to know that starting any kind of relationship at a time like this will only lead to more heartache for everyone involved, so they do their best to keep things professional. I enjoyed watching them wrestle with their feelings for one another. They have great chemistry, and the author does a great job ramping up the sexual tension between them as they fight for their lives.
I Am Justice contains a good balance of romance and suspense, but some of the moments that should have been the most suspenseful felt a little over the top. Both Sandesh and Justice are constantly ending up in these really dangerous situations, but I never had to worry that any harm would come to either of them. They always managed to save themselves at the very last minute, and while I don’t necessarily object to this, I didn’t find their methods completely believable. They seemed to magically possess the necessary skills for every situation, and I found myself wondering how two people could possibly be as smart, talented, and unflappable as Ms. Stewart made Justice and Sandesh out to be.
I found myself longing to know more about the Parish family. The author gives us a bit of background on Mrs. Parish at the beginning of the novel, but it wasn’t quite enough to satisfy me. It’s obvious that Justice is devoted to her adopted mother and sisters, but I wasn’t able to really grasp the dynamics of this large and complex family. The number of family members felt a little overwhelming, especially since there wasn’t a lot of context to help keep them all straight in my mind.
We spend a lot of time watching Justice attempt to figure out the identify of the traitor. It’s obvious someone in the family is responsible, but I couldn’t figure out who it was. I had a couple of what I thought were good guesses, but I turned out to be wrong. Since I read a lot of mysteries, it can be hard to fool me with red herrings, but Ms. Stewart succeeded on a grand scale.
This isn’t the best romantic suspense novel I’ve ever read, but it’s a reasonably strong beginning to a series with a lot of potential. The second installment comes out later this year, and I’m eager to see if it goes in the direction I’m expecting it to.