Pocket / October 30, 2012 / $7.99 print & digital
Kelsey Quinn set out to trace a murder victim. Now she may become one.
The dead don’t speak, but Kelsey knows their secrets. As a forensic anthropologist at the Delphi Center crime lab, Kelsey makes it her mission to identify bodies using no more than shards of bone, and her find at a remote Philippines dig hints at a sinister story. When Kelsey’s search for answers puts her at the scene of her exfiancé’s murder, only one man can help her. The same man who broke her heart just months before, and who is also a prime suspect. Faced with an ultimatum— Kelsey or his job—Gage Brewer did the only thing a Navy SEAL could . . . but that doesn’t mean he stopped wanting Kelsey. Now Kelsey is running for her life and Gage is her last line of defense. As the threats escalate, Kelsey realizes this conspiracy goes deeper and higher than they could have guessed. With the clock ticking down on a madman’s plot, the slightest misstep will have unthinkable consequences. . . .
Scorched by Laura Griffin is sixth in her Tracers series of romantic suspense novels featuring forensic anthropologist Kelsey Quinn. It’s the first I’ve read by Griffin, but it won’t be the last; I want to know more about her characters, and the suspense was pretty breathtaking, too, mainly because I cared about the characters.
Kelsey works both at a “body farm” research center in the United States and for an international human-rights group that investigates mass murders and other crimes around the world. I loved Kelsey immediately because she’s intelligent and good at her job, and the author made me believe it with dialogue like this.
“He was significantly taller than the average Filipino male, so I doubted he was native. And his dental work told me he spent much of his life in a first-world country.”
“That doesn’t explain why you thought he’d be a criminal.”
“That was mainly because of the implants.”
“Cheek implants. And I saw evidence of recent rhinoplasty. not only that, it looked like he’d had his jaw sculpted.”
“You can tell he had a nose job?”
“From the bone scarring at the top. I could tell he’d had a nose-narrowing procedure in which the surgeon removed the nasal bones on either side, reshaped them, and then repositioned them. There are tiny marks visible where the bones have been reset.”
Even though she spends a good portion of the novel on the run, Kelsey has several opportunities, ordinary and unexpected, to use her skills to help solve the mystery.
Kelsey’s love interest, Gage Brewer, is equally competent in his own field of Special Operations, as he is a Navy SEAL. But aside from that, he’s compelling to read about because of his unresolved feelings for Kelsey. The tension between them is amped up further when they’re both in deadly danger.
She’d given him an ultimatum—her or the teams. Torn between Kelsey and the SEALs, he’d done the only thing he could do—he’d chosen the SEALs. But it wasn’t the end of him wanting her. And it wasn’t the end of his bitterness. Even now—especially now, with her sitting there beside him—he still harbored a deep resentment toward Kelsey for making him choose between her and his job.
If the intense romantic elements between Kelsey and Gage aren’t enough, there’s also a potential romance between a secondary couple, newly-minted FBI agent Elizabeth LeBlanc and Gage’s best friend, Navy SEAL Derek Vaughn. The two don’t meet under the best of circumstances—Elizabeth wants information about Gage, which Derek won’t reveal—but their continued encounters reveal attraction and conflict on both sides. Elizabeth’s lack of experience in the field contrasts her with the SEALs and gives a different perspective on the case.
“After [Gage] eluded agents Frost and LeBlanc at Disneyland, he returned to his pickup truck and left the park. We allowed him to put some distance between us and followed him using the GPS.”
As the words came out, Elizabeth felt sick to her stomach. She’d been a decoy. Gordon had known she’d botch this assignment from the very beginning. He’d planned on it. She glanced around the room, suddenly aware that no one was making eye contact.
…He’d used her earlier. He’d counted on her inexperience and manipulated it to his advantage. The knowledge stung. She should have felt self-conscious, but instead she felt more determined than ever to prove him wrong about her.
Even if you’re new to the Tracers series, it’s easy to get into the story and I wasn’t confused at any point about the characters. If you love deep characterization in your romantic suspense, and ongoing romances, give Scorched a try. You might just find a new autobuy series.
Victoria Janssen is the author of three novels and numerous short stories. Her World War One-set Spice Brief is titled “Under Her Uniform” and is a tie-in to her novel The Moonlight Mistress. Follow her on Twitter: @victoriajanssen or find out more at victoriajanssen.com.