Tour’s Books Blog

August 17, 2009

Book Review: Breakpoint by JoAnn Ross

  • Title: Breakpoint
  • Author: JoAnn Ross
  • Type: Romantic Suspense
  • Genre: Faux Military/Secret Gov’t Agency
  • Sub-genre: Old adversaries to lovers
  • My Grade: B- (3.7*)
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Where Available: Everywhere books are sold

JoAnn Ross started off her High Risk series to compete with popular series like Roxanne St Claire’s Bullet Catchers, Tara Janzen’s Steele Street books, and Suzanne Brockmann’s Trouble Shooter’s.  Like other authors of these quasi-military thrillers, she blends the attraction of a Special Ops operative with the freedom of a civilian setting.  This gives a lot of latitude otherwise unavailable.  I liked Freefall and Crossfire (each a C+ for me), didn’t much care for Shattered (a C- for me) and I really like Breakpoint, mostly because the love story was more interesting than most and the action/mystery part was more believable than most books of this ilk.  Ms. Ross has an easy to read style, though here she hangs some meat on her military bones.  It sounds a bit pedantic at times, as if she were quoting information from source material, and I the whole kidnapping thing at the end hard to buy into, but the core love story was very solid.

We met Dallas O’Halloran, a former CCT in the Air Force, in Shattered.  He has a lot in common with Ken Karmody in Brockmann’s Out of Control, one of her best books in the original Navy SEAL’s  series.  Each is a brilliant computer specialist with an inventive mind and by choice enlisted rather than officer.  The rescue operation in Shattered leads to a military hearing on the SEAL’s involved, and O’Halloran was forced into being hostile witness for the prosecution.  His career ended when a photo journalist he helped rescure snapped his photo during the operation and then publicized with his story about his captivity and rescue from the Taliban.  Julianne Decatur was the JAG lawyer who prosecuted his friends.  He spent 3 long days being interrogated by her, and admiring her ass.  Even though she was following orders, Julianne finds her zeal in prosecuting the SEAL’s ends up dead-ending her Naval Career, so she resigns.  Now both work for a new agency, THOR, that answers only to the president and, under the Homeland Security Act, takes precedence over NCIS in this case.  The two run into each other at a fancy event in the Hotel del Coronado.  Julianne is wearing a clingy dress and stiletto heels, and Dallas gets to admire that ass as she walks away from him.

Dana Murphy grew up wanting to be a fighter pilot like Tom Cruise – a Top Gun.  Two waves offs on a night landing on her carrier by an LSO that hates the idea of women in a cockpit, could cost her a coveted spot in the program.  She argues with him and storms off to be intercepted on the way to her quarters.  When her body is found, it was initially presumed a suicide, but a note is pinned to her claiming it was murder by radical Islamists on board the vessel.  O’Halloran and his nemisis, Decatur, and the THRO agents sent to investigate.

Julianne perfected her ice bitch persona years ago.  A Navy brat, she had no friends growing up except her sister.  She followed in her dad’s Naval footsteps, but after so many years growing up and living Navy, she’s at a loss living in the civilan world where there aren’t any uniforms to tell rank.  Dallas beats her to Pearl Harbor where they have their first interview.  The Lt. Commander they speak with commits suicide shortly after they leave.  The arrive on the carrier to find the most likely suspect if Murphy was murdered is missing, presumed overboard and there’s a search and rescue underway.  But who claimed radical Islamists were involved, and why?

The ships doctor, Roberts, has a lot of information and it all points to murder, not suicide for Murphy and more and more like a possible murder of the LSO.  That doesn’t explain why someone thought THOR should be doing the investigation and not NCIS, who are trained specifically for this sort of thing.  Even two thirds of the way through the books there our hero and heroine are themselves confused as to why anyone thinks onboard Muslims are in any way involved. The fact that Lt. Murphy was 4 months pregnant adds a lot of potential problems – like was the LSO the father and why won’t the husband allow an autopsy?

Of the High Risk series so far, this one reads most like a mystery and less like romantic suspense.  Yes, there is some sexual tension, but it takes a serious back seat to the investigation after the initial encounter in Hawaii.  That part stays out of the story, aside from a moment here and there Dallas baiting Julianne.  With the clock ticking and the ship due into Pearl.  There are a few thrills for Dallas and Jules, but mostly the pacing is just the time constraints.  A lot of the dialogue was more about the Navy and various acronyms and what they mean, so it got rather tedious and the middle of the book dragged as a result.  Some judicious editing would have improved things.  As I stated above, the whole kidnapping thing at the end was way over the top and frankly not believable.

Dallas and Julianne are interesting at the beginning, but their story is lost in the details of ship board life on a carrier, so the tension between them seems to fade.  Unlike Brockmann, there are no secondary stories here, and unlike Tara Janzen, it hasn’t got the action and the personalities woven in.  The storyline is straight forward for both the mystery part and the love story.  Dallas gets over his annoyance at being dragged into court on his friends’ hearing rather easily.  Julianne has a bit more trouble letting go of a lifetime of being an ice princess to protect herself.  Neither character is all that original or well developed.  It was rather like reading a book based on an episode of NCIS – with more filler and lacking Mark Harmon’s charm.  It’s just readable fun even though that silly kidnapping sort of ran it off the rails near the end.  Dear Author compared it to potato chips, you eat till the bag is empty, but there’s no substance.  Good summer read.

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