It is blind, it is swift, it is merciless, it flows from the barrel of a gun, it is done though the heavens fall; and now, it’s wild. Nadia Stafford returns to dispense justice in the third and final book of her trilogy; Wild Justice, by Kelley Armstrong.
Protect the innocent. If there is any one principle that drives hit man Nadia Stafford, it’s this. In her own mind, when she was thirteen, she failed to protect her older cousin Amy from being murdered. Now she fails again, disastrously, when she botches a hit. To help her find her equilibrium, her mentor, Jack, brings her a gift: the location and new identity of the predator who killed her cousin and disappeared after the case against him failed.
Vengeance, justice? With the predator in her sights, nothing seems more right, more straightforward, more easy. But finding justice is never as simple as it seems.
Over the past two books, everything has been building towards a confrontation between Nadia and Drew Aldrich. He’s the one who got away: the man who raped and murdered her cousin and got away with it, setting her on the path to becoming a professional killer. He’s still out there, still preying on women, exactly the type of monster Nadia wants to take down. And there have been repeated hints that Nadia has repressed her memory of the incident, that he raped her as well as Amy before she managed to escape. Clearly, a final showdown and reckoning between them is the natural conclusion to the trilogy… until you actually start to think about it.
Nadia is a professional hitman in her prime, a highly skilled assassin who is friends with no less than three other highly skilled assassin she can call on for back up. Aldrich is an aging man who once killed a single teenage girl while she was heavily restrained. That’s nobody’s definition of a fair fight. So, when I read that the plot was going to be about her going after Aldrich, I actually found myself dreading it: what stupid contrivances will the plot be relying on to try and wring fake tension out of this incredibly lopsided battle and stretch it out over the length of the entire book? So it’s a very good thing the story throws a curveball: just as Nadia tracks Aldrich down, he gets killed by another hitman. Now the plot is about unraveling a web of intrigue surrounding his sudden death. It completely flips the script: Aldrich, who has been set up as the ultimate villain, is instead the inciting victim; and Contrapasso, which has was presented to Nadia in the previous book as a benevolent organization and a goal to aspire to, seems like it might turn out to be the villain. It’s surprising, it’s clever, it pits Nadia against other trained hitmen who are capable of serving as worthy adversaries. In short, it’s good storytelling.
But not all is sun and roses. Witness: the conclusion to the Jack-Nadia-Quinn love triangle. Given the relationship writing fumble in Bitten, I was naturally nervous as to how it would play out. And the book very nearly handled it well. Things didn’t work out between Nadia and Quinn because they were looking for different things out of their relationship, not because one of them cheated or turned out to be crazy or anything; they split up, and Nadia became a couple with Jack. Which came off as a little awkward to me, given how he’s 20 years older than her and a mentor/father figure; but whatever, that just goes to show that I don’t know what women want. Point is, everyone was handling it in a sensible and mature manner; and even though the previous books made me support a Nadia/Quinn pairing, I was fine with how things were going. And then came the scene where Quinn comes over to Nadia’s hotel room after she’s had sex with Jack, and there’s this whole bit where Nadia pretends to be in the shower and hides her hastily discarded undergarments and Jack convinces her to hide the fact that they’re now an item from Quinn. So much for everyone acting sensible and mature; we’re now apparently reading a bad romantic comedy. Oh, such hilarious hijinks and wacky misunderstandings! …Wasn’t there a hitman you were supposed to be tracking down?
Wild Justice is probably the best book of the trilogy, though not by a far enough margin that I’d bump the score up. The series is decent enough, but never reaches the heights of the best books in Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series. Even so, it’s interesting enough to be worth a read on it’s own merits – the first Nadia Stafford book was actually the first book by Kelley Armstrong I ever read, and I liked it enough to check out her other works.
Final Rating: 3/5