Live Wire is the first book in Caisey Quinn’s Nashville’s Finest series, and with a blurb that promised a homicidal maniac threatening to set off military-grade IEDs during Nashville’s largest music festival, and a rekindling romance between an explosives expert and his former lover, now an FBI agent, you’d think I was in for an action-packed, emotional rollercoaster of a ride, right?
Because Live Wire is, in fact, a damp squib. There is very little action, the romance is perfunctory, the characters are barely two-dimensional and the plot is predictable and not particularly suspenseful.
Four years before the book opens, Chase Fisk watched the love of his life get blown to smithereens when a military training exercise went badly wrong. He still has nightmares about that day, and has never really got over Vivien Brooks, in spite of having spent the first couple of years after her death trying hard to forget her in the beds of numerous other women. An injury sustained during the blast got him a medical discharge from the army, and Chase now heads up an EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) unit with the Nashville PD.
When a tip off leads Chase and his team to a condemned building on the east side of town they aren’t expecting to find a stash of military grade explosives and maps of the city marked up in a kind of code. But with the prestigious Country Music Festival just weeks away – which will see a massive influx of tourists into the city – there’s no time to waste in decoding the maps, working out what is planned – and who is planning it.
Given the nature of the discovery, the FBI is called in, and immediately dispatches three highly trained agents to aid the Nashville police. Among them is Vivien Montgomery, who, four years previously, had been undergoing military training when she’d been informed that she was the target of a Russian mafia boss who had a grudge against her family. For her own safety, the Bureau faked her death and she was then sent on an undercover assignment to take down said mafia boss, which lasted around two years. She is naturally wary at the prospect of seeing Chase again, certain he’s going to be furious at her deception rather than pleased to see her – and this is borne out at their first meeting, which is anything but a tender reunion. Fortunately, however, after some initial hostility and sniping, they realise they can’t go on this way and decide they need to address the elephant in the room. On the one hand, I was pleased the author chose not to drag out this aspect of their relationship; Chase and Vivien act like mature adults and have talked things out between them before the half-way point of the book. But on the other, that’s it for the romance – which wasn’t actually very romantic to start with. They’ve kissed and made up, they’ve decided they want to be together, and after that, things are all lovey-dovey, with the exception of a little workplace conflict, and there’s nowhere else to go. I was more interested in the brewing romance between one of Chase’s buddies (Luke) and Annalise, the sister of another of his friends, who works for the PD as an intelligence gatherer and analyst.
The author attempts to give some depth to Chase’s character by mentioning, once or twice, that he survived an abusive childhood, but that’s it; there’s no attempt to relate his past to his present. It’s like Ms. Quinn stuck a pin in a list of “Things to Make Your Characters More Interesting” and that’s the one she decided to bolt on. Vivien is from a military family, and we’re told how kick-ass she is, but never really see it for ourselves. And one thing I found really odd is that other than the fact that Vivien has red hair, neither she nor Chase is described in the sort of detail one normally finds in a romance novel, and consequently, I found it difficult to get a mental picture of either of them.
The plot plods on, complete with the obligatory last-minute twist which picks up a previously planted clue that the bomber’s target is Vivien rather than the city. The pace does pick up a bit in these last chapters, but it’s too little too late, and the ending is somewhat vague. Some of the bad guys are apprehended, but some aren’t so I’m guessing the story is to be continued in the next in the series. Reading this was reminiscent, at times, of watching a police procedural, complete with fast edits, sudden leaps of logic and overblown dialogue – and that’s fine, if you’re into that sort of thing. I like watching them as much as the next person, but I don’t like reading them; in a book, I expect something more carefully constructed and possessed of greater depth.
As is obvious, I’m not going to recommend this, and even though I sort of want to know what happens with Annalise and Luke, I will probably not be continuing with the series. When compared to some of the other romantic suspense novels I’ve read recently, by authors such as Mary Burton, Rachel Grant and Laura Griffin, Live Wire is static and unimaginative and the writing is pedestrian at best. I’m sorry, Nashville’s Finest, but you haven’t lived up to your epithet.