|Remember that time you went to your college roommate's wedding and none of your mutual friends had been able to come? Remember being seated at the table with all of the bride's high school buddies? Now, they seemed like real nice folks but the problem was that their conversation was all about people and events about which you knew nothing. So you sat there with a smile pasted on your face and counted the hours until you could exit gracefully. That's the way I feel about Justine Davis's latest novel.
His Personal Mission is the eighth installment of Davis's series centering on "Redstone Incorporated," a gi-gunda corporation filled with real nice folks. The book is all about people and events about which I know nothing. And, unfortunately, by the end, I was frowning, not smiling. Davis has fallen prey to an all too common trap for authors of connecting books. She is so busy reintroducing characters and referring to events from previous installments in the series that an uninformed reader like myself often felt at sea and worse, annoyed.
The hero is Ryan Barton, computer geek extraordinaire, who has an interesting backstory. Nine years ago, when he was nineteen, he was caught hacking into Redstone's computers. Rather than sending him to jail, Josh Redstone hired him to prevent other hackers from following in his footsteps. Two years before the story began, Ryan met Sasha Tereshenko, an investigator for the Westin Foundation which is devoted to finding missing children. The foundation is run by a former Redstone executive whose child was kidnapped and murdered. It is heavily supported by the corporation.
Ryan and Sasha experienced one of those immediate and electric attractions, but before their relationship could go too far, Sasha broke it off. Ryan was too happy-go-lucky, too detached, too focused on his computers for the serious Sasha. Ryan had never quite gotten over Sasha, but had avoided any contact with her. Now, he needs her; his sister Trish has gone missing.
The fact that Trisha is over eighteen (just barely), left notes for her parents and employer, and apparently went willingly means that the police do not take her disappearance seriously. But Ryan fears that such an out of character action on Trish's part signals that she is in danger. He contacts Sasha and asks her to use her expertise to find his sister.
Much of the story centers on tracing Trish and provides some interesting insight into the world of online socializing and the ways that a talented expert can ferret out what someone may wish to hide. And, of course, there is much about the potential dangers of the online world.
Most of the "romance" works itself out in Sasha's head, as she discovers that Ryan has changed in the two years since their brief relationship. Apparently the twenty-eight year old is much more mature than the twenty-six year old. (As the mother of a twenty-six year old, I can only hope. OK, that's not fair to my kid who is really a pretty sensible and hardworking person. Still...)
To be perfectly honest, neither the suspense nor the romance worked all that well for me. The suspense elements were particularly unconvincing. Having traced Trish's actions and uncovered the danger she had placed herself in, Ryan's and Sasha's decision to solve the problem themselves (with, of course, the help of Redstone Incorporated) makes no sense. I am unconvinced that with the information they uncovered, that the authorities would have remained uninterested in Trish's peril or that private individuals acting alone could do a better job of solving the problem. And the behavior of just about everyone at the end left me shaking my head.
I suppose that a reader who has followed the "Redstone Incorporated" series will want to read His Personal Mission. I'm not sure that anyone else will find this particular story particularly compelling or satisfying.