Back in 2007 I bought the first book in her Nadia Stafford series, 'Exit Strategy'. Nadia is an ex-cop who's career exploded when she killed a man. She lost everything as a result, her family, friends and started running a backwoods lodge instead. And working as a hitman. Very, very different to the rest of Kelley's books.
I'll admit, when I first got it, I got a few chapters in and gave up. It didn't really grab me and I didn't feel any sympathy for Nadia so I shelved it. Last year I was bored, needed something to read, saw it, and decided to give it a second try. This time I got hooked. I went out last Wednesday and bought the second in the series, 'Made To Be Br oken' as soon as I knew it was in store. And as it's not meant to be out here in the UK until April 2nd, I'm really rather pleased about it. Even more pleased now I've read it.
"To the outside world Nadia Stafford is a smart, g ood-looking, law-abiding citizen. Well, two out of three's not bad...An ex-cop with a legal code all her own, Nadia has a secret life as a world-class assassin. She works only for one New York crime family, who pay her handsomely to bump off traitors. But when a troubled teenager and her baby vanish in the woods near her home, Nadia's old detective instincts - and the memory of a past loss - compel her to investigate. With her enigmatic mentor Jack to support her, Nadia unearths sinister clues that point to an increasingly dark and deadly mystery. As her obsession over the case deepens, Nadia realises that the only way she can right the wrongs of the present is to face her own painful ghosts - or die trying. And so she sets off on the trail of a young woman no one else cares about - and a killer who is bound to strike again..."
The second book in the series shows us more about Nadia's past, about how she struggles with feelings of guilt over her cousins death many years before. And how it affects her when local teen, Sammi, and her baby girl disappear. Nadia gets very obsessed with finding Sammi's killer to the point where she starts risking everything, making stupid mistakes with a one track mind. Thankfully her mentor (and possible romantic interest) Jack is there to help keep her in line and watch her back. And so is Quinn, a federal agent who's a vigilante hitman in his spare time, Nadia's other love interest. The book keeps up a decent pace and there is a good balance between romance and action. As well as giving us a good look at how Nadia sometimes struggles to balance her 'real' life with her job as a hitman. I find myself feeling more and more for Nadia, and the amount of pain she's trying to hide. The story takes a few surprising twists, looking at the darker side of adoption as the search for the missing baby gets messy.
The relationships between Nadia and the three most prominent secondary characters, Jack, Quinn and Evie (Jack's mentor) are all very complicated and twisted up with each other. Evie is a very sharp mind, but clearly dangerous. Not someone I particularly like, but I also kind of like to hate her. She's someone who wants much more from Nadia, trying to coax her vigilante tendencies to the surface, whilst Jack is trying to keep Evie away, to protect Nadia. Clearly not something easily done.
There is a lot left unanswered for Nadia at the end of this book, personally speaking, the case is wrapped up nicely. And I seriously hope there will at least be a third book in the series to follow them further.
Over all, this series has a lot of promise, but while reading them, I can see why people wouldn't get on with the books. Finding sympathy for a hitman (yes, un-pc, but she calls herself a hitman, so I'll go with it happily) is not the most obvious thing. Nadia is a very private person too, not very outward in her emotions and even internally she keeps herself on a tight leash, not allowing herself to think too much on certain things. But as a reader, you can feel that all she's doing is holding back pain. And while that draws me in, I'm sure it doesn't work for everyone. I like the isolated world Nadia lives in, not really knowing who to trust, and hiding the real her from everyone. It's different for pretty much everything I read. It left me wanting a lot more, so here's hoping that there will be!