Notorious and Dead Heat by New York Times bestselling author Allison Brennan are captivating thrillers. While Notorious is the first novel in a new series featuring investigative crime reporter Max Revere, Dead Heat brings back FBI agent Lucy Kincaid. What is an obvious theme with both novels is the determination to bring justice for the victims.
Notorious and the novella, Maximum Exposure, explores how Revere decides to dedicate her life to investigating cold cases and bring closure to the victims’ family and friends. Brennan skillfully takes the reader on a journey by exposing lies, highlighting evil, and holding people accountable for their actions. With both plots the reader will feel invested in all of the characters. The novella’s plot has Max finding the truth behind a college students’ murder in Colorado, centering around the manipulation of bullies.
After reading this people will want to jump right into the plot of Notorious where nationally renowned author, reporter, and TV host Maxine Revere decides to investigate a case from her own past. As a high school senior, one of her best friends was strangled and another, Kevin O’Neal, accused of the crime. To the disgrace of her wealthy family, Max stood by her friend, until she found out he lied about his alibi. Though his guilt was never proven, their relationship crumbled from the strain of too many secrets. Fast-forward to the current day where Max has come home to attend Kevin’s funeral (who committed suicide.). She’s finally prepared to come to terms with the loss of his friendship, but she’s not prepared for Kevin’s sister to stubbornly insist that he didn’t kill himself. Intertwined with this case is a different cold case where another murder occurred at Max’s alma mater. Max is more interested in the cold case at her alma mater than in digging around Kevin’s troubled life, but she agrees to do both. Brennan does a great job in showing how the two cases are related.
The main character, Max, is seen as headstrong, tough, blunt, smart, and independent. For her, the truth is the most important aspect in solving a crime and she will stop at nothing to get answers. Because of her past demons Max is determined to find closure and peace for the victims’ loved ones. Brennan skillfully shows what makes Max tick, the open ended questions in her own life: what happened to her mother, who is her father, and where is the killer of her college best friend? These have fueled her to make sure the cold cases she investigates have a resolution, especially since so much of her life has no answers. This makes for a very riveting and interesting read.
Brennan commented to blackfive.net, “I have a kinship with Max. I also grew up without a dad. I tracked down my father when I was eighteen and found out sometimes fantasy is better than reality. My dad told me he wished my mom had an abortion. He was definitely not the white knight I pictured, but was instead a jerk. The prep school was modeled on my alma mater. It is essentially my school. I knew people like Max and some of the other characters in the book. I used the Silicon Valley setting to have Max rich so that she would be financially independent. I was more like Kevin, not very financially rich. Whether writing about Max or my other character Lucy I put an emphasis on the bad have to be punished. The books I like to read and write seek justice and will have happy endings.”
The other series character, Lucy Kincaid, is not at all like Max. While Max is a loner Lucy is part of a team in San Antonio’s Violent Crime unit. She is a survivor of a rape that has forced her at times to think of herself as a victim. The quote in Dead Heat best shows how Lucy views herself, which is a much different personality than Max, “She’d grown to depend on him, not just for comfort and sex and companionship, but to complete her. She was happier when he was around, more relaxed, safe.”
In Dead Heat the male characters, Sean and Kane Rogan are front and center in solving the crime. The plot has the brothers working closely with Lucy to find and capture the head of a vicious drug cartel who are also involved in child abduction and trafficking. With this series the male characters do the heavy lifting both intellectually and physically. While in Notorious the male leads, FBI agent Marco Lopez and police detective Nick Santini, are more of a supporting cast to Max.
Interestingly Nick, Sean, and Kane are all former US military personnel. Because Brennan feels the military is a training ground for a law enforcement career she has dedicated her characters to those people. Her respect for them can be seen by her willingness to participate in the Military Book Fair (www.militarybookfair.org) on November 8th in San Diego, California.
She noted to blackfive.net, “I am very excited about raising money to help our veterans. Many of my male characters are military background based. I have my characters going into law enforcement since about 1/3 are former military. I think it is a natural progression. I am very close to someone who I met while she was stationed in Iraq. She emailed me that after lending one of my books to someone they were transferred. While she was over there, over a period of eighteen months, I sent her a bunch of books. Her husband who also served in the military also became a fan of mine. We all became pen pals with books unifying everyone. I admire those serving and who have served for making the sacrifices to support our country.”
Whether the military related characters or her female heroines these two novels and the novella have brilliant characters with very intriguing storylines. Throughout the plots the reader understands how each character must make a moral decision, in the end deciding justice should be served. All of these stories are a perfect balance of action, suspense, and character relationships.