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Flashpoint    by Suzanne Brockmann order for
by Suzanne Brockmann
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, Audio, CD, e-Book
*   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

A strong earthquake has ravaged the tiny, repressive country of Kazbekistan. Amidst the destruction, a laptop (critical to US national security) has gone missing. Retrieving it calls for the specialized skills of operatives familiar with the country's customs and warlords. This is where 'Troubleshooters Inc' comes in. Tom Paoletti, former SEAL and head of the newly formed company of covert operatives, quickly assembles a crack team. Tess Bailey, Lawrence Dekker and Diego 'Jimmy' Nash will pose as relief workers and find the missing laptop before it falls into the wrong hands.

Tess Bailey is an expert when it comes to cracking computer codes, but as a field operative she's green as grass. The Team's XO isn't thrilled to have Tess as part of this mission. Jimmy Nash thought he'd seen the last of Tess after their single steamy night together. In fact his feelings for her scared 'no strings attached Jimmy' so badly that he fled to Mexico. He left the field wide open for his partner, Lawrence Dekker, who has a real thing for Tess. She, on the other hand, has Jimmy all figured out. Though he isn't the kind of man who makes permanent commitments, she can't help loving him. Heading into Kazbekistan, Tess is well aware that spending even another minute with Jimmy Nash might be more dangerous for her than facing a dozen armed terrorists.

Suzanne Brockmann's strong suit has always been her masterful character development and skill at seamlessly weaving together an action-packed, believable plot with a strong romance. Unfortunately it's in the character development that this latest installment in her Troubleshooters series fails. I couldn't seem to connect with Tess and Jimmy, nor with the romantic triangle that Brockmann sets up. The constant bickering between the two leads, and their non-stop angst about the folly of falling into bed again, proved increasingly annoying -- I wondered whether it was a story about teenagers or adults. Given the pair's situation, surroundings and mission, I was amazed that their distraction with each other didn't get their heads blown off.

Brockmann might have been wiser in choosing secondaries - Team Leader Lawrence Decker and ex-pat Sophia Ghafarri (she's on the run from a sadistic warlord who's put a huge price on her head) - as her leads. Both were much more well developed and sympathetic, and their situation (and tentative attraction that remains open-ended) is what ultimately held this romantic adventure together. As always, Brockmann presents an action packed and timely plot (and does manage to add some flash into the last third of the book) but, overall, Flashpoint fizzles rather than sizzles.

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