With his dying breath, Carl Venable, head of the CIA task force on terrorism and Jude Brandon’s final link to terrorist ringleader Max Huber, gives Brandon a mandate: to keep his daughter, Rachel, safe at any cost. But Rachel Venable has a shocking, twisted past of her own, one that comes rushing back after her medical clinic in Guyana is attacked by Huber—the same man who murdered her father and kept her imprisoned for months. Brandon and Catherine Ling, Rachel’s longtime ally and fierce protector, are determined to keep Rachel out of danger, but she knows that it’s impossible to stay hidden when Max Huber wants you dead.
As Rachel and Brandon race against the clock to bring Huber down before he can orchestrate a nuclear explosion that will lay waste to the west coast, they also fight a growing attraction to each other – an attraction that could prove just as dangerous as Huber himself. In this gripping, fast-paced novel full of dark secrets and tangled lies, one thing is clear: everyone has a vendetta, no one will rest until they get their revenge.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Vendetta by Iris Johansen brings back characters introduced in the Eve Duncan books. Although it is billed as an “Eve Duncan” she is only mentioned briefly. But, this does not take anything away from the plot and the main characters, Rachel Venable and Jude Brandon. The story centers on these two and their attempts to bring down Max Huber, the head of Red Star, a terrorist organization with immense power.
The story begins with the shooting of a top CIA official, Carl Venable. His dying breath to the operative, Jude Brandon, to save his daughter, Dr. Rachel Venable, and give her the choice of eliminating Huber to prevent him from wreaking further havoc on a global scale. Huber wants revenge on Rachel, believing that she killed his father by poisoning him. Enlisting the help of her good friend, CIA operative Catherine Ling and her on again, off again boyfriend, Richard Cameron, they work together to bring Huber down.
Johansen noted, “Every other chapter has a choice come into play. It is all about making choices. Rachel had to decide if she would go after the bad guys. Brandon whether he would involve himself emotionally with Rachel. Catherine made the choice not to hide from her desire for Cameron, as well as knowing she had to give Rachel space and control over her own destiny. The bad guy Huber is pure evil without redeeming qualities and his choice was to inflict as much collateral damage as possible. Even though I have a choice as a writer, I just wanted to kill Huber for doing terrible things to the people I love in my books.”
Both Rachel and Catherine had similar experiences of having to overcome rape. At the age of fifteen Rachel was captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan, watched them kill her mother and brother, and was brutally raped as well as tortured. What Johansen does wonderfully is to show how Rachel is determined to overcome her past experiences. One of the reasons she becomes a medical doctor is to heal people. Both Catherine and Rachel are intelligent, tough, strong, independent, and stubborn.
The book quote has Rachel determined to not be seen as a cripple. “I wrote that because I consider it the bravest thing she ever said. She went through a terrible event, but she fought and conquered it. Catherine also had a tough life, growing up on the Hong Kong waterfronts. She learned from it to become stronger. These two women are more similar than different. They had rough teenage years that they had to overcome. I think they are more sisters than friends and will always go to bat for each other. I think Catherine is more like the older sister because she has a son, which makes a big difference.”
Johansen writes female characters that are something other than constant damsels in distress. They find a way to survive and have come out even stronger. This story shows how a character’s past and the decisions made influence the present and future, sometimes to the point of getting revenge by pursuing a vendetta.
Review of an “Advance Reader’s Copy”, written by Elise Cooper.
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