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.