Friday, October 23, 2009

Final Finesse (by Karna Small Bodman)

Reviewed by Tracy L. Karol

Final Finesse

4-1/2 Stars

I had never heard of this author until two friends of mine recommended her to me, and I was lucky enough to snag a free copy of her latest book, "Final Finesse," for free. I had an idea I would enjoy it as I'd downloaded the sample chapters, but I was eagerly awaiting my copy in the mail and started it very late Saturday night, didn't read any during the day, and then finished it late Sunday night/Monday morning. That, to me, is a good thriller/page turner.

A little background on the author, from what I gathered: She has a background in national security and certainly knows her stuff when it comes to energy and natural resources. I haven't yet read her first two books, but I definitely plan to do so.

This book starts out with a natural gas pipeline explosion in Oklahoma, during the middle of winter, that leaves countless people without heat and some dead. The company that owns the pipeline, GeoGlobal, cannot figure out how this disaster occurred. One of the head honchos, Tripp Adams, is in Washington D.C. and working on the problem.

Cut to the White House, where Deputy Director for Homeland Security Samantha Reid works. She has a background in energy but spends much of her time writing talking points for her boss, who loves to go on TV but can't seem to speak for himself and is dependent on Samantha for, well, just about everything. I think many women can identify with a boss who has taken the credit for a job they've done, so can well imagine Samantha's situation (men can as well, I'm sure).

There is a lot of insider information about the White House, from how lunch is eaten to where offices are allocated, that makes it clear the author knows her stuff and gives the reader an interesting glimpse into what it would be like to work in that rarified world. You really need to read the book to get the feel for the atmosphere, but Ms. Bodman does a good job of writing about what she knows.

Back to the plot: Soon another gas line explodes, and while to me this would seem like a disaster (I admit I knew nothing about pipelines going into this story), Samantha quickly pieces together that a gasline does not "just explode." She tries to bring the matter to the attention of her boss, but he isn't interested. Still bothered, she sets up a meeting with someone from GeoGlobal. Little does she know that the man she meets will be Tripp Adams, a college crush.

Sparks fly between Samantha and Tripp, despite of (or maybe spurred on by) the situation they are in. As more gaslines explode, they both suspect this is sabotage, but cannot figure out if it is the work of terrorists or what reason there is behind the attacks. No one is taking credit for them, but the cost of gas and oil is going through the roof while people across the country are left without heat and are dying.

As readers know, however, the work actually is a plot by Venezuelan oil workers on orders by the dictator of that country's right-hand man. It seems he wants to not only nationalize the pipelines in Venezuela (including those owned by GeoGlobal), but cause massive destruction in America and drive up the price of fuel, which he succeeds in doing. This is part of a convoluted plot before elections in his country.

Without giving too much away, there is just enough romance in this to make it an enjoyable read for women without annoying male readers who want a good national security thriller. I love a good romance as much as anyone, but I've gotten tired of really explicit sex scenes and usually skip past them if there is not a good reason for them (moving the plot along). In this case, there was enough romance that I enjoyed it and it was balanced just right.

When Tripp gets in trouble in Venezuela, Samantha doesn't sit idly by either. She doesn't suddenly turn into a ninja (another device I'm getting tired of -- not every female heroine has to be a gun-toting warrior, not that I have anything against them; it's just nice to see a regular woman use her brains and not be superwoman). She is smart and savvy and tries to get the agencies she works with involved, to little avail. She finally takes matters into her own hands and uses her brain to get what needs to be done, done.

I won't give more away, but I highly recommend this exciting thriller. I loved the national security angle, finding out new information in an interesting way, and the dynamics between the hero and heroine. The Washington insider stuff was a plus. I'm excited to see what this author comes out with next, and to read her previous novels. Sorry Amazon that I got this one for free, but I'm glad I discovered Karna Small Bodman! Happy reading. Other authors you might enjoy: Brian Haig, Vince Flynn, Nelson DeMille, Marliss Melton (for romantic suspense).