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Monday, March 7, 2011

Criminal Instinct by Kelly Lynn Parra

Criminal Instinct by Kelly Lynn Parra
Publisher: Carina Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (261 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 Books
Reviewed by Lily

Five years in prison or five years working as an undercover agent?

Not the easiest choice for Ana Moreno, who has a history of B and E convictions and a problem with authority. But it's a decision she and four other felons are willing to make to stay out of a jail cell.

When a deadly shipment of Ecstasy heads for San Francisco, Ana's team is sent to stop it. Ana's task: get close to the handsome and dangerous Jonas Saven, right-hand man of a suspected drug dealer with a deadly agenda. As Ana uncovers a web of secrets, betrayal and revenge, her heated attraction to Saven grows.

But with time running out to stop the dangerous drug lord, Ana must complete her mission—even if it costs her everything...

A heroine who makes the page glow with more brilliance than Lisbeth Salander from Steig Larsson’s series? She’s here in Ms Parra’s Criminal Instinct. And not only that, the other characters are pretty perky too.

Our misfit, Ana Moreno, is feisty and tiny but tough enough to break a man’s face. She carries an illegal switch-blade in her boot, is carrying enough emotional baggage around that would flatten a goods train, and she’s been sentenced to five years in prison for attempted murder. But she’s opted, along with a group of other choice criminals, to join SIDE (Secret Informant Drug Enforcement program) and believe me, she and her peers are completely dispensable as they try to take down one drug baron after another. Life is so full of risks that I did wonder at times if prison might’ve been easier. The team’s current assignment is to track down who is responsible for a deadly shipment of dangerous drugs heading for San Francisco. Ana is given the task of finding out all she can about Jonas Saven, a dangerous drug dealer, known for his playboy lifestyle and his casual attitude to death.

It seems difficult to bond with two main characters who appear to be nothing more than damaged goods. But I was wrong in my assumption. Jonas Saven is the perfect hero, hunky, brooding and with no patience for bull. But is he really the dangerous criminal his reputation has led you to believe? Ana thinks so and nothing will get in this diminutive character’s way, even if she does have a problem with authority and is about to be flung back in jail for breaking SIDE’s rules.

Yes, there is much bloodshed, guilty and innocents beaten to A pulp, torture of the nasty kind, woman-bashing and racial overtones. But a light of innocence, of being misunderstood, a keen sense of justice and an underlying reason why a person acts as she or he does glimmers through the gore. This brings a perfect balance to the plot which rushes along faster than a torpedo in full flight. Will they discover who’s behind the shipload of drugs? Will Ana succumb to Jonas’s apparent caring interest for her or is she just another notch on the bedpost? But, more importantly, will this mammoth undertaking be too much for our brittle heroine, even though she does tend to pop back up again like a jack in the box after fearful batterings? But then, of course, she’s ever ready to throw herself into the fray. It’s almost exhausting to read. Yet the romance scenes (not telling between which characters) are so tender and emotional. Beautifully written, and once again – like a breath of fresh air – a good balance in the plot.

This humdinger of a rollercoaster ride never lets up, and keeps the reader entranced right to the end. My only criticism, if it can be called that, was the constant referral to the color of Ana’s skin and her hang-up over it. It seemed overplayed.

With one or two nasty villains turning out to be not quite so nasty after all, it brings back our faith in the world. I was engrossed in this story from beginning to its satisfying ending and I believe that those who enjoy this genre will consider they’ve found a gem.

I say “ending”, yet there’s bags of room for a sequel that I for one would jump on. So I ask – no beg – Ms. Parra to get one out. Please.