Mal Garrett has a problem. He is assigned to a dull, and utterly boring surveillance post watching his boss's adult daughter as she functions as an aid worker in the Ukraine. Abby Baston is an undercover CIA agent watching the Ukrainian border for any signs of Russian invasion. Her job requires her to keep her CIA status secret, even from her own family. It's not a glamorous assignment - her biggest day of the month is battery-change day, when she has to switch out the batteries on the ground sensors near the border. In a not-a-coincidence move, Mal stages an incident for him to meet Abby and the sparks fly. Before he knows it, he is in the middle of a potential international incident.
What I enjoy about most about Emmy Curtis' Alpha Ops novels is her playful style. The banter between these two seasoned operatives is entertaining. Abby is a veteran agent, having been recruited out of the college, but her role is intelligence gathering. Mal is a gruff former SAS soldier, just cynical enough to go through life with a big wall surrounding his emotions. In other words, they are pretty equally matched in their wits as well as skills.
I like the fact that Mal is a bit of a Neanderthal, having not had any real long-lasting relationship in his life, except with his fellow soldier. Although he is attracted to Abby, he holds himself back, until he doesn't. He's world-weary - he reminds me of a GOM - grumpy old man, and that makes him lovable.
My biggest critique is that her scenes, especially towards the end, feel like they end just short of completion. They lack the detail she invests through the rest of the book. They feel rushed. For example, the reunion with her dad is rushed. For all the effort her father puts into surveilling her, there isn't much emotion when she finally comes home after a harrowing experience. There are also a few story elements left hanging that seem to go nowhere.
I don't think this book is about trying to attain truly, deep, emotional depth, but it does but is does deliver enough to make you care about the characters. It is action packed, suspenseful, and very entertaining.
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