Series: Tracers, #11
Published by Pocket Books on January 31st 2017
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When a lakeside tryst ends in a double murder, police detective Daniele Harper arrives on the scene determined to get answers. Clues are everywhere, but nothing adds up. Dani turns to the Delphi Center crime lab for help, but soon regrets it when her secret attraction to their chief firearms examiner threatens to distract her from the most important case of her career.
As a ballistics expert and former Navy SEAL, Scott Black knows firearms, and he knows he can help Dani unravel her case. Scott has managed to hide his interest in his best friend’s younger sister for years, but when her investigation brings them together, the sparks between them quickly get out of control. Scott resolves to keep his hands off Dani and his eyes on the goal—identifying a killer. But when that killer zeroes in on Dani, all bets are off. There isn’t a line Scott won’t cross to convince Dani to trust him so that he can help her take down a ruthless murderer who has her in his sights.
The Tracers series has been either a hit or miss for me and while I don’t think any has quite reached the heights of ‘Scorched’ or ‘Beyond Limits’, ‘At Close Range’ comes quite close. The heart-pounding action is the book’s main draw, as is the strong focus on a likeable, strong female protagonist with admirable strength and fortitude, with a side of the romance that unfortunately paled in comparison to the layered but intelligent case Laura Griffin has built in this story.
Yet the story takes on the ‘friends to lovers’ trope as well, but that too, did bring about its own pitfalls…as well as my own biases to the surface when it comes to this very difficult trope. Despite having known each other for ages and wanting each other, I was disappointed to learn that Scott Black was no better than a player who committed to nothing but his work (“going through women like chewing gum” as the unflattering description would have it), or that he thought PTSD was sufficient excuse that Dani was better off without him.
But because the romance is somewhat spare—there’s tension but not too much focus on emotional depth and development on Scott’s side at least—, I could only question just how much he felt for Dani apart from physical need or why he decided to start pursuing her after he stayed distant for so long. Where then, had this change of heart come from, unless it had been the unexpected sex that suddenly convinced him that she was worth his time? In fact, I thought he had been quite the idiot with her, interfering with the case when he wasn’t supposed to and then wanting something with her on his own closed-off terms. I often felt that Dani actually deserved someone better than Scott, who didn’t even seem to have emotionally caught up with her even with the rather unconvincing declaration of love at the end when nothing in the story demonstrated anything more than his protective instincts for his best friend’s sister.
Consequently, I thought Griffin’s book could actually function well enough on its own without the romance built into it—that thoughtfully-plotted is the story (though some bits did seem far-fetched) with its sharply-drawn supporting characters that support it. But this side-rant is clearly my own objections to the way the pairing had been done. I was otherwise mesmerised by the technical details as I was with the science as I thought of Bones every time someone from the Delphi starts squinting. The story had everything else going for it: the excellent twists, turns and revelations were thrilling, as was the unusual setup that had the ball rolling from the very first page…which didn’t stop until O’Dark thirty.