Title: Dead Run: Dangerous Ground 4
Author: Josh Lanyon
Cover Artist: April Martinez
Publisher: Just Joshing
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Contemporary M/M, Action/Adventure
Length: novella/40,650 words/150 PDF pages
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Review Summary: A most excellent adventure of the heart.
The boys are back in town — and Paris is burning!
For Special Agents of the Department of Diplomatic Security, Taylor MacAllister and Will Brandt, the strain of a long distance relationship is beginning to tell after eleven months of separation. A romantic holiday could be just the thing to bridge the ever-growing distance, but when Taylor spots a terrorist from the 70s, long believed dead but very much alive, it’s c’est la vie.
Now instead of sipping wine and seeing the sights, the boys are chasing a wily and deadly foe through the graveyards and catacombs of Paris.
Of course, it could always be worse — and soon it is.
Dangerous Ground Series
Whenever a series reaches book 3 or 4 authors usually reveal some crucial points in the story arc that are cross roads for their characters and the series. This was definitely the case in Dead Heat, book 4 in the Dangerous Ground series, as a number of internal conflicts between our heroes – personal vs professional differences, ex boyfriends, job priorities – all take center stage and each fights for top billing.
When I reviewed Dangerous Ground the first book of this series in May, 2008 I fell in love with Taylor and Will, Special Agents with the Department of Diplomatic Security. At that time they had been partners for 3 years and their friendship and partnership were in danger of being severed because Taylor had the audacity to confess to Will that he was in love with him, and a few hours later he had the bad luck to be shot, which reinforced Will’s feelings that personal and professional relationships should never overlap. Much has happened since then. Two books later they are lovers, but a year into the relationship Will accepted a promotion to Paris and they haven’t seen each other since.
Dead Run opens with Taylor and Will reuniting in Paris for the first time since Will volunteered for his plum 2 year assignment. But before Taylor even left the US he committed the ultimate faux pas of stopping a plane from taking off because he thought he saw someone on an old terrorist list, someone long thought to be dead, among the crush of passengers waiting to board his flight. Not a good move if you’re not positive about your facts. 🙂
As I said in my review of Blood Heat, the third book in this series, “a new book by Josh Lanyon is like a box of dark chocolates because behind the delicious rush as it hits my tongue will be the bittersweet, melting, rich orgasmic flavour, and this series is definitely the darkest chocolate.” Will and Taylor have a synergy and charisma that’s hard to top. Despite their somewhat exotic jobs they have their feet firmly planted on the ground and their love for each other is what makes them vulnerable, the opposite of the confident Special Agent persona that they are on the job. Having to hide their relationship gives it the ambiance of excitement and danger which makes the characters appear to be just one step ahead of disaster, especially Taylor who is hot headed and usually acts first before he thinks things through. This time it’s Will who has bursts of uncharacteristic rashness which is like waving a red flag in front of Taylor.
The plot is complicated and I won’t go into a long explanation about it since that would spoil the fun for you. In this review I want to highlight the difficulties Will and Taylor face a year later in trying to pick up where they left off. Would the love between them survive their separation seamlessly, or would minor irritants like an ex (David Bradley) who is still buzzing around Will destroy Taylor’s trust in his lover, an essential element of their personal and work partnerships? There is also the major issue of job conflicts as two high energy, career focused professionals try to juggle love and career. All I will say about the plot is that a small-time and mostly unknown terrorist group from 40 years ago provides the opportunity for the usual Police and Secret Service involvement as they race to prevent disaster and death, which serves as a backdrop for Will and Taylor as they try to figure out how to ensure that misunderstandings don’t spoil their first vacation in a year and taint their relationship.
At the heart of the book are the uncertainty and vulnerability Taylor feels about Will putting his career above their love for each other, and the bad taste from that decision colours everything Will says and does. The distance between them keeps growing and nothing Will does to try and bridge the gulf is working. They had always been able to talk to each other but this time it seems that everything they say makes their misunderstandings worse. This tension is not helped by an injury to Will which highlights Taylor’s concerns and questions about whether Will is committed to him and their relationship.
Having visited Paris in the distant past I was happy to do so again in Dead Run which Lanyon brought to life in the world he created. All of the French touches were there and the atmosphere was colourful and alive, from the history, the architecture, the language, the crazy drivers and the overpriced food – no detail was overlooked and I definitely felt a sense of place. For Taylor, the first things he noticed were the subtle French touches in Will’s appearance – the elegant clothes, different haircut, a facility with the language etc. which were disconcerting and made it seem as if he and Will were out of sync. Were these changes merely superficial or a sign of something ominous such as Will’s desire to extend his stay in Paris?
There were many surprises in the book including a possible new assignment that Taylor was considering, and this made Will see red and react in a way that was not consistent with his usual sober, level headed conservative approach. Not the way to make Taylor see his point of view and another sign of internal conflict and differences which Lanyon shows with many deft touches of prose and dialogue.
The sex was at times off the charts which demonstrates that the author is getting a lot more adventurous with his MCs sexually, something that definitely adds spice to their relationship.
I did have a couple of niggles and one was the quick kiss shared by Will and Taylor in the armory vault. The kiss was hot but it seemed uncharacteristic and dangerous to do so at work since there could have been cameras around. Also, a lot of the prose was devoted initially to describing the city, and while most of the background was necessary to set the stage, some readers who are more interested in the story than the location may feel it’s a lot of information. There’s always a fine line between deciding what’s just enough and sounding like a travel brochure but on balance I think Dead Run didn’t go over the line. Some scenes that I liked were the search through the Paris catacombs – eerie and claustrophobic – the location was used almost as if it were another character; the chase through the tombs at the famous Père Lachaise Cemetery at midnight was similarly well constructed and imaginative as it provided atmosphere and danger in a location that’s visited by hundreds of thousands of travellers annually.
The care that Josh Lanyon takes with his supporting characters is one of the reasons that sets his books apart. In Dead Run Marie Laroche, girlfriend or ex wife of the main suspect was very well drawn, in terms of her physical appearance “like a scary grandma with her gravelly smoker’s voice and tattooed eyeliner …. she looked like she cut her hair herself with the hatchet she used to decapitate chickens.”
What was most remarkable was the growth of the romance alongside that of Will and Taylor as protagonists, and the ending will shock and surprise you. Talk about a cliff hanger!