Tuesday, June 17, 2014

My Review: Fatal Exchange

Fatal Exchange is the second book in Lisa Harris' newest series, Southern Crimes!
Emily Hunt might come from a family of cops, but she never goes looking for an adrenaline rush. She lives the quiet--well, relatively quiet--life of a teacher and thrives on making a difference in the lives of her students. But she'll have to draw on a well of strength and savvy she didn't know she had as student Rafael Cerda takes her class hostage for ransom money to save his brother's life.

Undercover cop Mason Taylor has been working with Rafael to find his brother and bring the cartel thugs who hold him to justice. Can he talk Rafael down from his impulsive actions? And is there something more sinister at work here than he realizes?

About the author:
Lisa Harris is a Christy Award finalist and the winner of the Best Inspirational Suspense Novel for 2011 from Romantic Times. The author of more than twenty books, including Dangerous Passage, Harris has spent over ten years living with her family as missionaries in Mozambique, where she leads a women's group and runs a nonprofit organization that works alongside their church-planting ministry. Learn more at www.lisaharriswrites.com.
(Book description and author bio from Amazon.com. Cover photo from Deeper Shopping.com.)

My review:
Fast-paced suspense novel - 3.5 stars
Fatal Exchange is the second book in Lisa Harris’ newest series, Southern Crimes. This is the first of her books that I’ve read and I enjoyed it. It is fast-paced and held my attention.
Since I didn’t read the first book in the series, Dangerous Passage, I didn’t understand at first why we had Avery’s point of view. Once I found out book one was hers, it made more sense. Though this is book two in the series, it can very easily be read as a standalone, though there is a bit of a cliff-hanger at the end to ensure you will want to pick up the next book when it releases in Spring of 2015. There were undoubtedly several things I missed because of not reading Dangerous Passage first, but nothing noticeable enough to detract from the story.
Emily Hunt comes from a family of cops, but is the odd one out because she chose to be a school teacher. I really liked Emily’s character. She was very believable and likeable. I enjoyed that while the author threw her into a high-stress, high-risk situation, she didn’t try to make her into a super heroine. She was scared, tense, emotional, everything I imagine I would be, if I were to face a similar crisis. There seems to be a fine line in writing, between having a strong, independent heroine, and a clingy, annoying one. I really appreciated that Ms. Harris finds just the right balance to make Emily feel real.
Our hero is Mason Taylor and he is a great character! He is strong, determined, while also being kind and compassionate. The undercover cop character sometimes seems overdone and worn out, but Ms. Harris finds just the right balance for his character, too. While he is a cop, we see more than just one side of him. He has loved Emily for years, but has stayed just a friend out of respect for her faith. I was a little surprised that when he gets the chance to reconnect with her, he doesn’t immediately jump at it. Yes, there is a lot going on so that wasn’t really an option, but he mostly continues to be the friend she needs, while weighing the possibility of something more.
I was slightly disappointed that Ms. Harris left Emily and Mason’s relationship on the sidelines for most of the book. This book is mostly suspense with a little romance. I suppose since the book covers a very small time frame, the romance would have seemed rushed had she done more with it, but I would also have liked there to have been a bit more depth to it. Hopefully she will pick it up again in the third book.
My main complaint is that this book is more suspense than mystery, which wouldn‘t be a problem, except she tried to make it a mystery. The few “twists” seemed to lack originality and I could guess what was going to happen next without putting much thought into it. Also the “surprise” villain was very obvious. I saw it coming almost as soon as it happened, the only surprise was why they did it and that never seemed to be clearly defined. We are left with the “we may never truly know the reason,” excuse. That was frustrating for me. 
I was impressed with how she wove faith into the story. It isn’t a major part of it, but she highlights what is there very well. The main spiritual theme is forgiveness, focusing on forgiving others. This quote sums it up rather well, I think, “My father always told me that forgiveness is a choice. A conscious decision to let go.” Emily Hunt, page 279 
Mason and Emily struggle with this through out the book. Mason must forgive someone from his past and Emily has to let go of the betrayal she feels. Forgiveness is never an easy topic to broach and while Ms. Harris does a great job of it, it did get a bit overwhelming for a couple pages at the end. I know she was trying to tie up the story and bring it to a close, but it felt both condensed and strangely long at the same time. She piled a lot into a few pages, then drug the last chapter out. 
I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fast paced suspense!
I received this book through The Book Club Network for my honest opinion, which I have given. I was not required to write a positive review and have not been compensated for it in any way. All opinions expressed are my own.

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