Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Secret Agent Under Fire - Geri Krotow (HRS #1941 - Apr 2017)

Series: Silver Valley PD (Book 4)

At their first meeting, sparks fly -- but not the good kind -- between Abi Redland and Keith Paruso. As an arson specialist contracted by Silver Valley P.D. Abi needs to work closely with the smolderingly hot fire chief, but as an undercover agent for the top-secret Trail Hiker organization, she has to hide things from him. To her chagrin, she finds the charming firefighter is really getting under her skin.

For Keith, finding the culprit who's setting the fires and has blackened his reputation means redemption. But as the attacks escalate and Abi becomes a target, danger turns up the heat on their romance…and on everyone they love.

Fantastic conclusion to the series. For the past two years, Silver Valley has been dealing with the results of having a cult leader and his followers move into the area. During the last several months there has been a rash of unsolved arsons, suspected to be caused by members of the cult for their own misguided purposes. Abi is an arson specialist, brought in to help the Silver Valley PD find them. She is also an undercover agent for Trail Hikers, a secret organization.

Keith is the Silver Valley fire chief, a man dedicated to the safety of the people of his town. Besides the need to catch the arsonists, his quest is also personal. The cult members are responsible for damaging his reputation as a firefighter and the chief, and he looks at catching them as his chance for redemption.

Abi and Keith have to work together, but their first meeting has sparks flying between them. First and foremost is antagonism, as Abi is frustrated over losing the suspect and is then confronted by Keith, who doesn't like having an unknown civilian at his fire scene. They exchanged some rather heated words, before they are interrupted by the chief of police. Underneath the antagonism, though, is a very real spark of attraction, something neither of them is happy about.

I loved watching them learn how to combine their efforts. Each has a different way of working and eventually they find a way to maximize their strengths. At the same time, there is a personal relationship that continues to build between them. Keith is a man who has played the field for a long time, and the things that he feels for Abi are something he's never experienced before. Abi has been burned by a relationship with a coworker before, and is determined to keep things professional between them. But chemistry and hearts cannot be denied, and the feelings between them continue to grow.

I loved seeing the two of them get to know each other. Keith is a bit of an ass at the beginning, rather judgmental about Abi being from the city. Abi isn't much better with her attitude toward his social life. But both are professionals and try to put all that aside when they are working. And slowly they realize that they were wrong about each other. There are some terrific scenes of them opening up about things from their pasts that have made them who they are today. But Abi has one secret holding her back, and that's her involvement with the Trail Hikers, something she can't tell Keith about. It makes her feel rather guilty and she worries about what will happen if he finds out. As their feelings increase, they decide to try to keep them at bay until after the case is over. But when they are finally free to pursue them, Keith suddenly decides that he can't put Abi through the turmoil of being with someone whose life is constantly in danger.  I ached for Abi as she tries to go on without him, at the same time I wanted to kick Keith in the tail. I loved the scene in the diner with Rio as Keith finally sees the light.

The suspense of the story was great. From the first book in the series to this one, the actions of the cult have gotten bolder. The leader was the quintessential charismatic creep and I couldn't wait to see him brought down. The growing escalation of the arson attacks pointed to something major in the works, and the SVPD knew they were racing against time to stop it. As leads were pursued and conclusions drawn, I could see the possibility of some of it happening in real life. The final confrontation was intense, especially with Abi and Claudia right in the middle of it. I loved how it all came together.

I liked seeing more of characters from earlier books, especially Rio and Kayla, and Colt and Claudia. Claudia was one of my favorite characters, with her Marine Corps background and her relationship with Colt. I wasn't at all surprised by her actions at the end, and loved seeing Colt accept and support her. I also loved seeing the various ladies of Silver Valley and their involvement in Abi's plans for her future. There's great support and friendship there. I'd love to see more of Silver Valley in the future.

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