Publisher: Calamity Jane Publishing

Cyclone by Jamie Crouch

Cyclone by Jamie CrouchCyclone by Janie Crouch
Series: Linear Tactical #1
Published by Calamity Jane Publishing on September 25th 2018
Pages: 280
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four-stars

The past haunts her. . .

Doctor Anne Nichols is only back in Oak Creek, Wyoming because she has no other options. She left years ago, broken and bleeding, without anyone really noticing. So she’s not surprised nobody here recognizes her as the stuttering, socially awkward girl she used to be.

Except Zac Mackay. The very reason she ran in the first place.

The present hunts her. . .

Zac’s years in special forces taught him the skills to stay alive in the most dangerous of circumstances. Now he has dedicated his life and built a company—Linear Tactical—to teach those same survival skills to others, so they don’t have to live in fear.

Then why is Annie, the last person he’d ever want to hurt, afraid of him?

Zac’s determined to wipe the fear from the eyes of the woman who has never been far from his mind. And fix the mistakes—his mistakes—that put that look there in the first place. But Zac's not the only one who's set his sights on Annie. Survival skills become much more than lessons when a predator starts prowling the streets of Oak Creek . . . and puts Anne in his crosshairs.

Reading ‘Cyclone’, or rather, getting into the first book of Linear Tactical, is strangely akin to seeing Janie Crouch freed of her writing restraints, and there’s no blunter way of putting it especially when it showcases the writing in fine form. ‘Cyclone’ is a full-length, more colourful, more explicit (hooray) story and simply a lot more compelling than the ‘tamer’ novellas Crouch has done for the Harlequin Intrigue/Suspense imprint in contrast, and begins with a huge misunderstanding and a painful event that neither of the main protagonists have quite gotten over.

Justifiably skittish, broken and gun-shy, Anne Nichols’s return to her small hometown brings her back into contact with the man she’d never wanted to see again, though Zac Mackay isn’t even aware of what exactly had put the rift between them that Anne wouldn’t talk about. And that’s where the pieces slowly come together, as I sat in with spiteful glee and got on the grovelling journey Zac took in trying to make up for his abysmal misdeeds 6 years ago, more so because I found myself sympathising and identifying with Anne’s insecurities, her wariness and even her quiet bravery and the strength that are so easily looked over. That she’s too forgiving made me a little outraged, even.

The element of the forbidden isn’t as strong as I thought here—Anne being the good friend of Zac’s long-dead wife, even if they’d known each other for a long time—and that Anne had always loved him yet tamped it down always made it feel as though Zac had a long way to go before getting up to speed with her. Apart from feeling that Anne was a little short-changed for the longest time, colour me surprised when Zac was able to move forward rather easily with her, as I’d expected some kind of accounting for how he finally had eyes for Anne when he never quite did before.

Still, ‘Cyclone’ is less angsty than I thought it would be, less drawn-out with the push-pull that happens between with a couple so weighed down by their pasts (this is not a NA novel after all), especially after the growing relationship between Anne/Zac is gradually overshadowed by the growing suspense plot that inevitably snares Anne in its trap.

Nonetheless, if ‘Cyclone’ is the standard-setting benchmark for the rest of the books to come—I was impatient to get back to the book each time my attention was called away—, then wherever or however Crouch might take this entire series is something I’m really looking forward to.

four-stars

Critical Instinct by Janie Crouch

Critical Instinct by Janie CrouchCritical Instinct by Janie Crouch
Series: Instinct #2
Published by Calamity Jane Publishing on April 10th 2017
Pages: 212
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four-stars

Every single person Paige has drawn has ended up dead. And now she’s drawn herself.
Paige Jeffries is the darling of the art world. Her works are original, compelling. But after a brutal attack two years ago —a savage beating from an unknown assailant—Paige has become all but a recluse. She knows her mind is broken. In her sleep she’s drawing scenes of violence. Murders. Going to the cops isn’t an option because they already think she’s crazy. And they may be right.
Seasoned homicide detective Brett Wagner is asked to look into a cold case nobody wants: the assault and battery of a local artist who claims to have drawn a picture of her own attack before it even happened. He remembers shy Paige from high school, and is driven to find her attacker, to believe her when nobody else does, to protect the innocent beauty.
Because when he witnesses firsthand what Paige is drawing in her sleep, Brett realizes they are scenes from actual cases. Cases that had no connection until now. Portland has a secret serial killer, and Paige is somehow linked to his mind.
And he’s coming for her.

‘Primal Instinct’ was my first-ever read by Janie Crouch and I’d always hoped that she would continue that very unusual series which, for a time, plunged me into paranormal crime-solving-type thrillers.

‘Critical Instinct’ is pretty much quite the answer to my pagan prayers and sacrificial offering, with a rather creepy introduction of a victim – a famous artist – who has actually drawn the picture of her own assault weeks before it really happened. It’s a combination as well of art, auras and people with special abilities (without going too much into quirky voodoo that gives me the creeps) and whether these have their place at all in law enforcement, which is based on the opposing part of the spectrum dealing with rational and logical problem-solving. But I liked the esoteric part simply because it was an original perspective on paranormal suspense for me, as much as I liked the chemistry between Brett and Paige.

Paige’s and Brett’s romance did come a little quickly for me nonetheless – I think I could have liked more UST as well as a bit more explosive steam when it finally breaks – but the focus is as always, and typical of this genre, the crime and the race to nail down the perpetrator before the heroine gets taken down. The psychic link between Paige and the perp also wasn’t exactly explained fully enough for me to believe, as was the strange reason for the latter’s choice of victims, but it’s definitely a breath of fresh air from the type of romantic thrillers that I’ve come across in a long, long time.

I’m simply glad I didn’t put off this book the moment I discovered Crouch was continuing this series. There’s just so much here to plumb and I’m hoping Crouch takes it all the way.

four-stars