Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Nadia Stafford, the ultimate anti-Gilligan

Great Moments from last night's reading
Book: Made to be Broken by Kelley Armstrong
Page: halfway through
Spoiler level: low

You wouldn't think a book about a hitwoman could be a comfort read, but I am finding Made to be Broken, book #2 in the Nadia Stafford series, to be deeply satisfying and comforting for two reasons:

1. The absolute expertise of the heroine Nadia.
2. The deep sense of understanding between Nadia and Jack, her hit man mentor

It is such an enjoyable world to be in for these two reasons. Of course it's also great fun to see these two use their hit man knowhow solve the crime.

Basic setup: Nadia (who strives to be an ethical hit woman, as far as one can) owns a lodge in the wilds of Canada. Nadia employs and generally helps out this sullen teen mother, Sammi, but then Sammi disappears with her baby. Everybody in town, even the cops, think Sammi's this stupid slutty girl who ran off, but Nadia is sure something is wrong.

There's this one stretch I really enjoyed--first, Nadia is searching the forest for the bodies of Sammi and the baby in an area where she fears they could be. She makes this grid system with string, and uses different sizes of sticks to examine the forest floor. It's this whole expert thing only a hit woman/ex-cop would be good at. I just love details like this though this series.

She has to leave and resume her search the next night, but mysterious mentor Jack is at the lodge recuperating from a broken ankle. She doesn't want to involve him, so she's keeping the search super secret. She makes this excuse about doing work on the other side of the property. And Jack's like, You're looking for her body. Because he's figured out her exact train of thought about the clues, because they are both wily expert hit people.

Hit man/hit woman shopping trip
At one point they go out disguise shopping together, and she has this whole schoolteacher persona she buys stuff for, and Jack makes a chin scar and whitens his hair. It's all quite delightful!

You know how some heroines are partly Gilligans? Like, they screw up a lot to create tension (sassy backtalk, bumblingness, temper, whatever. Can be annoying.) Nadia is the ultimate anti-Gilligan. I am so into that!

On the relationship front
This is different from a lot of books I read that build relationships off mixes of sexual attraction, humor, respect and abiding friendship. Armstrong is building one off deep understanding, and a strange sort of commonality. They are both solitary beings with secret lives, doing the wrong thing for their own reasons. They get each other on a gut level. It's oddly satisfying.

The one place they don't get each other thinks is around the romance, which is strange terrain for both of them. OMG, when these two finally get together, this book or the next, it is going to blow my mind a little bit. In a good way.

Renee's take on the book here.
Darque Reviews take here.

NOTE: Book #1 is Exit Strategy. It won't confuse you to start with this one, but you'd lose a lot of the Jack mystique. So I'd somewhat recommend reading Exit Strategy first. 


Renee said...

Anti-Gilligan, hmm? I like. So, does that make Jack the Professor? Would Quinn be Mary Ann or Ginger?

I really see Jack and Nadia as soul mates. But not (quite yet) in a romantic sense. There's a sympatico between them that remains unspoken, unexpressed, and even unknown, between them. Yet, they feel it. Very cool, and builds sexual tension like nobody's business.

Nadia is so controlled most of the time. It's that hint of what could happen if she loses control (like with her cousin's killer) again that gives her that edge.

Marg said...

I loved the first book in this series, and I am waiting very anxiously for the second book to come in at the library! I am so glad that you are enjoying it!

Anonymous said...

I'm another one who really enjoyed book 1, and I didn't realise there were more in the series. Thanks for the review - I'm looking forward to reading this one!

orannia said...

who strives to be an ethical hit woman, as far as one can

LOL! I have yet to discover Kelley Armstrong, but Renee has introduced I think I may dip my toe in the water at some point, although perhaps not with this series :)

Carolyn Jean said...

Renee: Well, good point. Even the professor is more bumbling than Jack. Maybe Jack is the anti-Skipper. Not all "lil buddy"

Marg: Oooh, you are in for such a treat!

StarFirenz: Doesn't it seem like the last one came out ages ago? I think this one is even better!!

Orianna: Oh, you are also in for a treat. I always think BITTEN is a great one to start with - one of my all-time faves!!!

Cass Orsome said...

I do love this series. I purchased the first book while I was in the UK on holiday - in a flea market in Cambridge, if you can believe it! I think I read it about four times in my three month trip - needless to say, I loved it!

The denial that both Nadia and Jack display as to their relationship is classic. It really ramps up the romantic tension between the two, and displays the caution that is so much a part of both of them.

I really hope Ms Armstrong writes another - can't wait to read it!

Tumperkin said...

I've never heard of this book and I haven't a clue who Gilligan is but I did enjoy this post!

Anonymous said...

I downloaded Bitten because you have said it is one of your fave books ever. I am dying to read Bitten and more Armstrong, but pesky things like work and childcare prevent me.

Carolyn Jean said...

Cass: Yes, it's a riveting relationship, in a strange way!

Tumperkin: Oh, you don't know Gilligan. Why should you? That was an americocentric analogy.

Jessica: Oh, the pressure! Now I'm all worried you won't like it!

Carolyn Jean said...

Jess: But look at you with an avatar!

Kwana said...

I like you take on this. You are so funny with your descriptions but I so get it.

Ladytink_534 said...

Loved Exit Strategy (thanks again for sending it to me!) so I can't wait for my library to get Made to be Broken in!!!

A Library Girl said...

Ooh, I hadn't realized the next Nadia Stafford book had come out yet. I must look into this. I can't wait to read more about her and Jack (although I have to admit that Exit Strategy disappointed me at first - I really like Armstrong's supernatural characters, and I missed them).

Carolyn Jean said...

Kwana: Thanks so much!

LT: You will really like it, I think. It's even better than the first book!

ALG: In a way, I found I had to get used to Exit, bc I was so used to her paranormal characters. But then this book I liked even better. I understand Men of the Underworld is fantastic!

Ann Aguirre said...

I want this one SO BAD. I´m definitely getting it when I´m in the States next weekend.

LesleyW said...

I am a complete Jack/Nadia shipper. Have book 2 on my TBR pile.

Stella (Ex Libris) said...

I'm so happy to see you loved Kelley Armstrong's Nadia Stafford series! I am surprised to see it so overlooked when it is truly fantastic! I can't wait for Kelley to write more books for this series so I can read more about Nadia's (and Jack's of course ;-p) adventures! I agree with you, what made me enjoy these 2 books so much was the details and depth Kelley Armstrong put into the "hitmanship", found it fascinating to read about the tricks.

And I love that quiet strength and support Jack provides to Nadia.

Now you have made me want to re-read these books! :-D