Tee O’Fallon kicks off a new K-9 Special Ops series with Tough Justice, about a DEA Agent and ER doctor who must work together to solve a series of overdoses despite their dislike of one another.
The mutual animosity Agent Adam Decker and Dr. Tori Sampson share isn’t because they had a bad one-night stand gone or a ridiculous interagency pissing match. Their dislike comes from unrelated family histories that place one another’s career in the crosshairs. Deck distrusts hospitals, and Tori distrusts federal agents. Their future is not written in the stars.
When Deck’s sister was sixteen, she was in an accident and given pain medication to which she became addicted, and eventually she overdosed. Tori’s father was a pharmacist with a penchant for providing free prescriptions for people in the community who couldn’t afford a prescription (or a doctor to prescribe them) and was – unsurprisingly – arrested and put in jail. It seems their beefs should be with the pharmaceutical industry rather than each other.
As an internal conflict, this is pretty good. And O’Fallon writes a tight story with highly researched methodology in terms of emergency room protocol and overdose treatment. Add to that her decades of experience as a federal agent specializing in criminal investigations and undercover operations, and you have a probable and believable premise. Because in this ripped-from-the-headlines story about the opioid crisis sweeping the nation, overdoses are overwhelming local and federal law enforcement agencies and hospital systems, making for an extremely plausible story. Denver Colorado is a big city, and a deadly new drug like ‘gray death’ would certainly move through the drug-using community like wildfire.
Despite their differences, Tori and Deck fall back on their professionalism and recognize their best chance of stopping a recent string of overdoses is to work together. Compromise is key for investigations, and they soon realize the deaths are tied to a drug trafficking ring that soon has them in its sights.
There’s a bit of a slow build as the story gets underway and characters are introduced, but it quickly eases into an enjoyable suspense. The chemistry between the leads builds at a believable and engaging pace, and it’s nice to see their dependence settles in as their attraction grows.
As usual, O’Fallon writes an intelligent suspense story with tight tension and sexy chemistry, but although this is a highly enjoyable book, two things gave me pause. First, Tori’s reasoning for her distrust and displeasure of the DEA feels a little forced. Her dad was an intelligent man, and while well-intentioned, had to know he was skirting the law. He was rather selfish in a way, because he had a LOT to lose, and still did what he did; you can’t just write your own rules and expect the world to play along without complaining. Second, I was a little too distracted by Deck’s canine partner, Thor, who stole the show most of the time he was on the page. The series is built around canines, obviously, but I discovered I like them firmly in the secondary (or even tertiary) spot. That being said, Tough Justice is a good book. The topic is ripped from the headlines and amps up the tension because it’s so plausible. If you’re a dog person, but haven’t yet gotten into romantic suspense, this is a good place to start. You’ll also enjoy O’ Fallon’s Federal K-9 series.