Mob hitwoman Nadia Stafford returns in the second book of her trilogy. Let’s take some shots at Made to be Broken, by Kelley Armstrong.
The author of the acclaimed Women of the Otherworld series returns with her latest novel featuring an exciting heroine with a lethal hidden talent. This time she’s hot on the trail of a young woman no one else cares about–and a killer who’s bound to strike again.
Nadia Stafford isn’t your typical nature lodge owner. An ex-cop with a legal code all her own, she’s known only as “Dee” to her current employer: a New York crime family that pays her handsomely to bump off traitors. But when Nadia discovers that a troubled teenage employee and her baby have vanished in the Canadian woods, the memory of a past loss comes back with a vengeance and her old instincts go into overdrive.
With her enigmatic mentor, Jack, covering her back, Nadia unearths sinister clues that point to an increasingly darker and deadlier mystery. Now, with her obsession over the case deepening, the only way Nadia can right the wrongs of the present is to face her own painful ghosts–and either bury them for good, or die trying. Because in her book everyone deserves a chance. And everyone deserves justice.
While Made to be Broken is the follow-up to Exit Strategy, I didn’t find the premise of the plot to be as immediately unique and grabbing. A group of hitmen teaming up to hunt a serial killer was a story I’d never read before; someone close to an anti-hero protagonist being killed and the protagonist hunting down the killer to exact vengeance is a story I’ve read so many times that I couldn’t even begin to count them all. If the plot has less of a hook, however, it at least makes up for it by increasing the emotional stakes. When Nadia joined the team to hunt down Wilkes, that was just a job; this time, as the cliche goes, it’s personal.
The lack of any villain cutaways of the type that featured in the first book is likewise a trade-off. On the one hand, it slows the pace down a bit because we aren’t always seeing the killer plotting his next move – it’s one thing to be told that more innocent people might die if they don’t hurry, but quite another to actually go into the head of the killer and see him plotting the details of his next crime. The upside, however, is to increase the mystery of who killed Sammi and why; we don’t get any secret insight into the killer’s identity or motives, and thus it can come as a surprising revelation to the reader as well as the characters when they discover that it was not the act of a lone psychopath but rather a part of a conspiracy.
My biggest issue with the book is actually not related to the main plot, but rather the romance subplot dealing with the love-triangle between Nadia, Jack, and Quinn. I actually don’t think it’s the sort of thing that would normally bother me, it being a relatively quite minor aspect of the book; but the first Women of the Otherworld book, Bitten, really left a bad taste in my mouth with the heroine repeatedly and remorselessly cheating on her boyfriend; and so each time Made to be Broken hinted that Nadia was pining for Jack but had resigned herself to Quinn, it set off warning bells in my brain. I mean, I like Nadia as a protagonist; I would hate for her to make me hate her by doing something like hooking up with Quinn and then cheating on him with Jack, all the while justifying herself by saying it’s not really cheating because she’s known Jack for longer. Or, in her case, because Quinn doesn’t make her heat go “pitter-patter”. Which makes it totally okay for her to sleep with another man and lie about it, right? Elena thinks so.
But as I’ve said, I’ve been liking Nadia as a protagonist so far; and so I am holding out hope that she will be able to resolve the love triangle in a mature and respectful manner without cheating and lying about it. Tune in to next week’s review of Wild Justice to find out whether my faith is rewarded or punished.
For this particular book, it is better than Exit Strategy in some ways but not quite as good as Exit Strategy in others; the positives and negatives cancel each other and it averages out at around the same overall level. Therefore, my final rating and recommendation remain unchanged.
Final Rating: 3/5