Exit Strategy, by Kelley Armstrong

Kelley Armstrong can pack a lot of story into a 480-page paperback. Exit Strategy, the first book in her series about a hitwoman-with-a-heart-of-slightly-tarnished-gold, features more plot twists, setting changes, and major characters than you can shake a stick at.

As a child, former cop Nadia Stafford witnessed a brutal attack that killed her cousin. As a police officer, she was pushed into early retirement after shooting a rapist. And now, in an effort to keep her Canadian vacation lodge in business, she’s been forced to take on a part-time job—as a mob hitwoman. Nadia’s struggling to keep her life on an even keel when her enigmatic mentor, Jack, shows up with a fresh problem: a serial killer has turned up in the United States. The FBI thinks the murders look like the work of a professional, and the secretive, guarded hitman community needs to find the killer before the Feds start nosing around too close to home.

Over the course of the novel, Nadia and Jack chase the killer all over North America, chat up hitmen, mob figures, and police officers, go through enough costume changes to make the creators of Alias proud, and somehow find time to ponder Nadia’s troubled past. The constant quick-change act gets a little old, but Armstrong mixes in enough sexual tension between the two main characters to keep her readers hooked.

Unfortunately (SPOILER ALERT!), none of that sexual tension goes anywhere. Although Exit Strategy's main characters are clearly interested in one another, and the book concludes with them planning to take a trip together, the only real romance in this installment is between Nadia and Quinn, an FBI agent who does vigilante-style hitman work in his spare time. Quinn might make a fascinating romantic hero in a different setting, but he’s about as tempting as Jethro Bodine next to the quiet, mysterious Jack.

Which brings us to the major problem with this book—despite its overstuffed plot, Exit Strategy is obviously an installment effort. It’s infuriating to charge through nearly five hundred action-packed pages and discover that you’ve been left dangling. Thriller fans are going to find plenty to enjoy about this book, but Armstrong’s longtime readers might want to hold off on buying it until we’re considerably closer to the release of the sequel.
Posted by: Julia, Last edit by: Julianka


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