Review: Scorched by Laura Griffin

Review: Scorched by Laura Griffin

Scorched by Laura Griffin

Scorched by Laura Griffin

In Laura Griffin’s Tracers series—like in the television series 24, which I enjoyed—practical considerations are unnecessary. In the Tracers world, domestic terrorists drive MINI Coopers, anthropologists defuse bombs and everyone is terribly attractive. 

Scorched is the sixth book in the Tracers series, which follows employees of a top-notch private crime lab in Texas. The series has featured hackers, scientists, sketch artists, cops, criminal investigators, writers and FBI agents who all work to solve crimes while simultaneously finding true love.

Yes, Laura Griffin’s Tracers books are as awesome as they sound. 

Admittedly, this latest installment isn’t my favorite because it marks a distinct departure from the previous novels which focused on local crime-solving and veers toward stopping a terrorist plot (in addition to solving a local crime—it’s complicated). However, it still features Griffin’s trademark fast-paced writing and capable, tough characters.  

Scorched features forensic anthropologist Kelsey Quinn at the Delphi Center, where she focuses on identifying bodies. While on a dig in The Philippines, where she’s investigating a mass grave, Kelsey discovers a body that’s buried separately from the others, one that’s had facial reconstruction and appears very out-of-place for a remote Asian island. Suspicious, she takes samples and sends them to her former fiance, Blake, who works for the FBI. 

Upon her return to the United States, Blake asks Kelsey to come to his apartment because he has information about the evidence she collected oversees. Except when she gets to his apartment, Blake is murdered and Kelsey is a witness and on the run. And because she fled, she’s also a suspect. 

Kelsey suspects that law enforcement is involved in a larger conspiracy related to Blake’s murder, and turns to her ex-boyfriend Gage, a Navy SEAL who worked for her uncle Joe. This is where I was a bit confused—I’d not realized that Griffin has published a novella featuring Kelsey and Gage, Unstoppable, and that provides much of these characters’ backstory.

“So, that’s Gage,” Derek said. “He’s about loyalty. Kelsey’s no longer his girlfriend, but she’s someone in his life and she’s Joe Quinn’s niece besides. If Gage believes she’s in danger, then his mission is to protect her. He will pursue that mission until she is safe or he is dead, because that’s who Gage is.”

However, once I figured that out and kept my eyes out as to clues to their history (they had a relationship, but it was unworkable, due to their respective devotion to their careers and both moved on in different ways), I was back on track with Scorched. The two work together to unravel the conspiracy connecting Blake’s death to the body Kelsey found oversees, which is also the catalyst for their getting back together.

Unlike in some of the previous novels in this series, the mystery and action is at the forefront of much of Scorched, which was a refreshing change of pace. 

It isn’t until nearly halfway through the book that there’s a shift toward the two characters getting back together, and even at that it only interferes with the action once. Naturally, Gage and Kelsey wind up running from psychotic killer FBI agents/possible terrorists in the Utah desert. Obviously, you know what that means: SEXYTIMES! Yes, there’s desert sex in Scorched, but since Gage is a Navy SEAL, that’s be be expected… I guess. (But thankfully, there is no instance of Magical Missing Condom Syndrome™.)

Regardless of desert lovin’, this is an uneasy reunion at best. Nothing’s changed with either of their commitments, so the barriers to their happiness seem actually realistic (which is really the case in most of Griffin’s books—she puts real barriers in front of her characters, so while the books are pure entertainment, they’re not simple Point A to Point B stories). In fact, I can imagine avid romance fans being frustrated that Scorched is as much an action-oriented thriller as it is a path to a happily-ever-after for the main characters. 

Yet, Scorched’s strength—the realistic barriers between the two main characters—is also its weakness.

That’s because the resolution comes far too simply and easily for such a major obstacle they need to overcome. Ultimately, no one has to really make a significant sacrifice, and as a result it felt like their story was shortchanged. Several other books in this series have suffered from this same affliction, and it’s always a disappointment. I realize that these books are purely fun entertainment, but I’d love to see the characters have to work a bit harder on themselves (this is a frequent complaint I have with Julie James’ books, which I also very much enjoy). 

Despite that I had so much fun with this book—and who wouldn’t have fun with a novel featuring pirates, Navy SEALs, parachutes, heat seeking missiles, barn explosions, desert sex, MINI Cooper bomb defusing* and much, much more?—I also worry that this series may be headed in more of a 24-style direction. I am very sensitive about terrorism plot-lines (this one features an anthrax story that very much bothered me because I lived through the anthrax scare in D.C.), but I know Navy SEALS are hot in both fiction and non-fiction right now, and this story set up another Navy SEAL storyline for the future. I’d much rather see this series stick with the Delphi Center staff and read a book featuring my favorite surly slogan T-shirt-wearing hacker, Ben Lawson, than see this well-written, engaging series become yet another terrorism-fighting series.  

Regardless of those concerns, like the other novels in this series, I do recommend Laura Griffin’s Scorched—it’s light mystery featuring a strong, capable and smart female lead done very, very well. 

Scorched will be released tomorrow, October 30, 2012.

Note: While Scorched is the sixth book in the series, the Tracers books do not need to read in order.

{Buy Scorched at Amazon | BN | Book Depository}

{Add it on Goodreads}

{CEFS review of Twisted, book #5 in the Tracers series.}

*I drive a little “British Racing Green” MINI Cooper. And I can say without hesitation, that if I wanted to use a vehicle to cause mayhem, I would probably rent a van or something. The MINI Cooper, while adorable, is rather impractical for any sort of major endeavor—hell, you can’t even block traffic with a MINI. Note: I have no intention of causing any mayhem with a vehicle, MINI Cooper or otherwise.

Disclosure: Received for review from the publisher via Edelweis.

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