Power Play is the third installment in Rachel Dylan’s Capital Intrigue series which follows the dangers and romances of characters from several US government agencies. The novel follows two pairs of investigators as they untangle murders with international consequences. The plot contains interesting twists and turns but lacks the edgy suspense I expected. I have not read the first two books and felt a little lost as some characters arrived on the scene, so perhaps it would be best to start this series from the beginning.
During a gala dinner in Washington D.C., State Department attorney Vivian Steele witnesses the collapse of two diplomats. The Egyptian ambassador dies quickly, and the US ambassador to Belgium is rushed to hospital after convulsing – with Vivian kneeling beside her. Supervisory Special Agent Jacob Cruz is head of security at the gala and quickly takes charge of the possible crime scene. Jacob, a former SEAL and only six months into is job with the Diplomatic Secret Service, carries a strong sense of failure over the two attacks and a determination to get to the truth. Given the high-profile victims, an FBI task force is created which combines the resources of the State Department, the CIA, and the FBI. Vivian, as a witness to both incidents and a legal expert, is included and paired with Jacob to follow up leads concerning the Egyptian ambassador’s death.
When Vivian first saw Jacob at the gala, the “mystery man” was giving her an intense look, but Viv dismissed him as uptight and definitely “military” and left it at that. Now, Jacob’s disdain and distrust of the mere lawyer partnered with him lets Vivian know that their collaboration will not be a comfortable one.
Supervisory Special Agent Delaney O’Sullivan, a veteran of the FBI, and her rookie partner Weston Lee are the second field pair on the task force. Weston is still on shaky ground at the Bureau after an operational slipup almost cost a life, and Delaney knows she has her hands full mentoring the young man and helping him find his confidence. They are assigned to investigate the attack on the US ambassador.
Solving the two cases is the focus of this book, with several subplots floating alongside. Tracking down clues, interviewing witnesses, and uncovering the truth are juxtaposed with Vivian becoming a target for assassination and going undercover. A romance and a partnership blossom. The Christian theme of the book comes in small quantities as the characters express the feeling that despite the bad things they witness or experience in the world, God is always with them. As they acknowledge His support and the blessings He has given, God provides them the strength and optimism to carry on.
What does Power Play have going for it? A strong plot of intrigue with plenty of suspects and a nice unveiling of the truth that test the reader’s mental powers of deduction. A good portrayal of the hero’s inner growth so that we can nod approvingly at the happily-ever-after. The relationship between Delany and Weston is, appropriately, never romantic, but a nicely drawn picture of a mentorship slowly changing into true partnership as both agents grow and learn to work together.
My disappointment came with the storytelling. The author is known for her courtroom dramas and uses a writing style and language that remind me of that particular genre. Story information is presented mostly through dialogue, almost ‘talking heads’ with little emotional punch, and we watch the events and people’s reactions from a detached perspective, rather than through the eyes and emotions of the characters. The romance between Jacob and Viv doesn’t get off the ground until the halfway point of the book and then takes a clear second place to the intrigue plot; the writing style tells the reader about their feelings but does not evoke an emotional response. There are many scenes that I surmise connect us to previous books of the series but which pulled me out of the flow of the investigation for several pages. This novel might be classed as suspense, but it lacks the underlying tension needed to give it the required edge. I kept reading to find out who was responsible for the murder, but I wasn’t invested emotionally and could easily lay the book aside.
Power Play had the potential to offer a riveting experience but gave instead an interesting mental exercise. If you’re in the mood for the cerebral work and are already invested in the Criminal Intrigue series, you might want to read this. However, given the lack of emotional edge and depth, I cannot give Power Play a recommendation.
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