Catch Me If You Can

Enemy Husband

Killer Temptation

Royal Betrayal

Sins of the Father

Sweet Revenge

Sweet Suspicion

Shoot to Thrill by Nina Bruhns
(Berkley Sensation, $7.99, R) ISBN 978-0-425-22905-7
If you enjoy lots of violence and lots of sex, you may enjoy Shoot to Thrill more than I did. I should admit right up front that I do not go out of my way to pick up this kind of book. As the title indicates, it is a “thriller” rather than a romantic suspense story. The action is frenetic. Within the first fifty pages, there are two successful and one unsuccessful kidnappings, a torture incident and one very hot sex scene. And the pace picks up from there.

The hero of the story is Kyle (Kick) Jackson who is on the run from his former employer, the Zero Unit (ZU) of the CIA. A botched operation in Afghanistan which left him badly wounded and his friends dead had soured him on the dirty work he has devoted his life to. But ZU wants him back. Seems he signed a contract making him forever at the organization’s beck and call and they need him for a special mission. Only he can identify abu Bakr, the leader of the horrendous al Sayika terror organization. The CIA knows that al Sayika is planning a huge attack in Khartoum; they know where the terrorists are located in Sudan; they can take out the camp from the air, but they want to make sure that abu Bakr doesn’t escape. So they want Kick to infiltrate the camp, take out Bakr personally and then call in the air strike. Kick “respectfully” declines their offer and takes off.

The heroine of the story is Lorraine (Rainie) Martin, a trauma nurse at Bellevue Hospital. Her friend Gina has convinced her to attend a local speed dating event for medical personnel. Gina believes Rainie needs some excitement in her life. As she looks around the room, Rainie spots a dark and dangerous looking man who seems out of place amongst the buttoned up doctors and med techs in the room. Their gazes lock, and he makes his way to her. His name tag says Dr. Nathan Daneby who, Rainie knows, is the director of the humanitarian organization, Doctors for Peace. To her own surprise, she agrees to have a drink with this strange man and even suggests they go to her apartment. Rainie’s excitement level is about to go off the charts.

It becomes clear almost immediately that her escort is not a humanitarian doctor. Rainie figures this out when she discovers a gun pressed to her side. Of course, she has met up with Kick. He forces her to take him to her apartment and once he has confined her, he admits he went to the event to find a nurse or doctor who could help him with a medical problem. Turns out that Kick is addicted to oxycotine. Convinced that the CIA will find him and force him to undertake the mission, he needs to get clean fast and he needs help. Kick convinces Rainie to help him and also convinces her that he wants more than her medical skill. They engage is some mind-blowing sex. Then the CIA turns up and kidnaps both Rainie and Kick. Thus begins the adventure and by the time it’s over, Rainie will find herself in the middle of a terrorist camp thousands of miles away from her quiet life in New York.

As someone who almost never reads spy thrillers, I am unaware of the conventions that prevail in this genre. I am unsure about the degree of improbability that is permitted. As a reader, I am generally willing to suspend disbelief to a considerable degree. But I have to admit that Shoot to Thrill exceeded my suspension quotient.

How likely is it that Kick, without prior knowledge, would have picked out a nurse who just happened to work with the newest drug detoxification techniques?  How likely is it that the CIA/ZU would kidnap said nurse and blackmail her into treating Kick?  How likely is it that Rainie would be taken on the mission? How likely is it that a woman who, traumatized as a child and psychologically unable to get into a car or airplane, would, in the space of a few days, become an amazon-like warrior who would save the day?  And this is just a short list of the improbabilities that marred my enjoyment of Shoot to Thrill.

I grant that Nina Bruhns provides “explanations” for all these contingencies, but they were too much for this reader. I kind of enjoyed the romance between Kick and Rainie, but these problems with the plot prevent me from recommending Shoot to Thrill.  

--Jean Mason

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