Over The Edge, by Suzanne Brockmann

20 Sep

Over the Edge, by Suzanne Brockmann.

The third novel in Ms Brockmann’s successful Troubleshooters series, Over the Edge can be read end enjoyed without reading the previous two installments (The Unsung Hero and The Defiant Hero), because enough information is given about the recurring characters, their relationships and personalities, that a reader new to the series can follow along perfectly well. At the same time, Ms Brockmann avoids overloading readers with unnecessary details, keeping only to those storylines relevant to this book.

Of course, I will recommend starting with the first novel and following along, not only because I’m a bit compulsive about reading series in order, but because these are really good books. The series is most commonly considered contemporary military romance, heavy on the adventure/action elements. Here’s the back cover blurb for Over the Edge:

Her passion is flying. As one of the best helicopter pilots in the naval reserves, Lieutenant Teri Howe is strong, dedicated, and highly skilled—until a past mistake surfaces, jeopardizing everything she’s worked for.

Rock steady Senior Chief Stan Wolchonok has made a career of tackling difficult challenges. So it’s no surprise when he comes to Teri’s aid, knowing that his personal code of honor—and perhaps his heart—will be at risk. But when a jet carrying an American senator’s daughter is hijacked, Stan’s unflinching determination and Teri’s steadfast courage are put to the ultimate test. The rescue mission will be daring and dangerous. But somewhere between peril and resolution, the line between friends and lovers begins to blur, pushing both heir lives over the edge…

The blurb refers—with more or less accuracy—only to one of several plots in the book, the one which most readers consider to be the main plot. While it’s true that the development of Stan and Teri’s relationship is the backbone, if you will, of the novel, there are several other stories being told with it.

Ms Brockmann is a past master at foreshadowing events that take place in future books with just one or two lines, perhaps a full paragraph. For me as a reader, the best thing about this is that these hints or incidents do not interrupt the flow of the current story, but enrich it. The lives of these characters are intertwined with each other’s, the way they are in life, so that one person’s actions often have a ripple effect through the people in his or her life.

As mentioned in the blurb, the external conflict that fuels the main plotline deals with a hijacked airplane, and the US response during this kind of crisis. The plane, from a purported American airline, is diverted by terrorists to the fictional Kazbekistan, a violent Middle Eastern country. A team of Navy SEALs led by Lt Tom Paoletti (introduced in The Unsung Hero) is called to attempt rescuing the hostages while Max Baghat, an elite FBI negotiator (introduced in The Defiant Hero) is brought in to either end the standoff—without giving in to any demands, since the US does not actually negotiate with terrorists—or to stall for time until such an attempt can be put in effect. Due to the nature of the terrorists’ demands, a top Israeli diplomat, Helga Rosen Shuler, gets involved—as is her assistant and former Mossad operative, Desmond Nyland. Among the SEALs included in this mission are Senior Chief Stan Wolchonock, Lt Sam Starret, PO Kenneth “Wildcard” Karmody and a few others introduced in the previous two books. FBI agents Jules Cassidy and Alyssa Locke also have rôles to play as part of Max Baghat’s team.

All these characters are written with such attention to detail, with such deft and deep characterization, that the reader becomes thoroughly invested in their fates. Secondary characters are given correspondingly less page space, and some are painted as real, complete individuals with barely more than a couple of paragraphs, but none of them are stock, two dimensional fillers.

The main story is told from several different points of view, from a couple of SEALs to an FBI agent to one of the hostages, etc., and as the reader sees the unfolding events through each character’s eyes, each passage also contributes to the development of the secondary storylines, such as a major subplot set in WWII and told entirely through flashbacks.

There is a lot of dialogue, so that the novel is probably about half dialogue—including some internal dialogue—and we are spared looooooonnnnnnnnnnnggggg descriptive sequences and infodumps.

While writing this review, I realized that the above description may make the novel come across as a complicated book, but the narrative flows in a very organic manner from one character’s perspective to the next, from one timeline to another, from setting to setting. This is in fact a very enjoyable, tightly plotted, very well written story. Further, while I like all of the books in the Troubleshooters series, I believe that Ms Brockmann hit her stride with this one, nailing the complexity of the universe in which she has set her stories as well as the personalities of the characters.

The characterization, without exception, is excellent, and the action sequences are just as good, if not better. There is a heightened sense of intensity, of impending violence, because Ms Brockmann doesn’t pull her punches. Bad things happen in real life, and they can happen to her characters in the same manner. From serious injury to violence to death, the reader is treated to the gamut of human experience during a crisis such as this.

Over the Edge is an excellent book, and gets 8.5 out of 10 from me.

Here is the list, in order of publication, of all the novels in the series, and here is my review of the latest installment, Into the Fire (released July 22nd 2008)

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