Gone Too Far, by Suzanne Brockmann

4 Feb
Cover for Gone Too Far; a couple running towards the right side of the cover, on a road in the middle of nowhere, at dusk. The lights of a car are visible ominously in the distance behind them.

For years I’ve been convinced that at some point I wrote a review of Gone Too Far. I even remember a paragraph from said review! And yet, I can’t find it anywhere. After wracking my brains, I finally realized that I did, in fact, write a review shortly after the book came out in 2003. Only, I wrote it as a post to Ms Brockmann’s reader board, which was hosed at least a decade ago.

What’s a reader to do, but indulge in a re-read, and write a new version of that review? Maybe that way it will stop haunting me!

Reader, beware: on the page there’s explicit sex, explicit language, violence, racism, alcoholism, some Islamophobia, and references to off-the-page child abuse.

Gone Too Far, by Suzanne Brockmann

Even though this is the sixth title in the Troubleshooters series, it stands well on its own, as most of the history between the characters is explained organically throughout the book.

However!

This novel is set six month after Into The Fire, and deals with the direct aftermath of those events for several of the characters. Famously, Ms Brockmann had planned one more book before giving Alyssa and Sam their HEA, but between reader demand and publisher pressure, she had to condense two novels into one, so a) this book is a full 450 pages long of almost non-stop action, with sections told from several different points of view, and b) the cast of characters is big, so being familiar with the Troubleshooters‘ world doesn’t hurt.

And frankly, watching Sam and Alyssa grow over the course of the series is truly too delicious to miss.

Here, have a blurb:

In his career as one of America’s elite warriors, Lt. Sam Starrett can do no wrong. In his private life, Sam–the king of one-night stands–has done little right. Now, he’s waiting for a divorce and determined to stay active in his young daughter’s life. But when Sam shows up at the door of his ex-wife’s home in Sarasota, Florida, he makes a grisly discovery. His daughter is gone and the body of a brutally murdered woman lies on the floor.

FBI agent Alyssa Locke’s relationship with Sam has been overwhelmingly intense and nearly catastrophic, yet it refuses to end. The last time she saw Sam was six months earlier, when they worked together to stop terrorists from assassinating the U.S. President. Much to her dismay, Alyssa is assigned to help with the murder investigation and once again the two are face to face. When explosive information surfaces linking Sam to the still unsolved assassination plot, the stakes are raised. With her reputation hanging in the balance, and her loyalties in question, Alyssa is faced with an impossible dilemma: arrest a man she believes to be innocent, or risk her career.

While Alyssa tries to fight their intense attraction, Sam is determined to heat things up between them once again. And the complex case pushes them both to the wrong side of the law–and on the run to discover the truth. As more agents step into the chase, and with Sam’s daughter still unaccounted for, neither Alyssa nor Sam can predict how hot this deadly situation is about to become.

A thrilling novel that ranges back into the days of World War II, into friendships, families, liaisons, betrayals, and the code of honor that binds the U.S. Navy SEALs, Gone Too Far is an electrifying experience in suspense–and a brilliant tale of lives lived on the edge.

There are three interconnected stories told in the book. One, told through letters and diary entries dating back to WWII, is both a lovely, sweet romance, and a story of violent racism in the time of Jim Crow. Another, set in 1984, is the story of a lonely, courageous, abused child finding family and learning to “do the right thing”. The last, set in the present (at the time of release, so it’s 2003), follows several separate, yet convergent, plot threads, and it’s told from the points of view of eight or nine different characters over the course of the novel.

Reading this novel today hits hard, because Ms Brockmann wrote it from a point of optimism. Bad shit was happening, abroad and domestically, but there was hope that things would get better, that things were, in fact, getting better. Now, here we are, almost twenty years after publication, and the world is harder, darker by far than it was then.

I mention this because one of the plot threads of the 2003 timeline deals with Sam Starrett and his XO, Lt. Tom Paoletti, being on the brink of a dishonorable discharge, at best, for violating the Posse Comitatus Act six months earlier, to stop a terrorist attack at the Navy base in Coronado, CA.1

Until the investigation into the incident reveals a few facts that implicate SEALs Team Sixteen, and Tom and Sam specifically, in treason, whereupon things are about to get a lot worse for both men.

So we have Tom in Coronado, trying to convince Kelly, the love of his life, to marry him, now that his military career is essentially over, only to suddenly find himself facing the very real possibility of a court martial.

We have Sam in Florida, trying to get his divorce finalized and start custody talks, then on a mission to find out what happened to his soon-to-be ex-wife and, much more importantly to him, to their young daughter Haley–all while dodging Alyssa and other FBI agents, who think he may have be the one who disappeared his family. Plus, you know, the whole “potential court martial for treason” thing.

We also have Max Baghat, Alyssa’s boss and very close friend, who is also having a bit of a personal crisis, even as he’s trying to help prove that no, neither Tom Paoletti nor Sam Starrett are guilty of treason, by finding out what actually happened.

We have Mary Lou Starrett, who realized, in the nick of time, just how deep in the shit she is, and who is now trying to figure out what to do to keep herself and Haley safe.

Oh, and this is just the first chapter.

We also have the aforementioned Kelly, giving Tom a hard time, and the Navy a harder one; Gina Vitagliano, who’s behind Max’s personal crisis; Noah Gaines and his wife Claire; Jules Cassidy, and a number of other characters, all putting their oars in.

All these seemingly disparate plot threads seem to accelerate as the story progresses, with more, quicker changes in the narrative point of view, until the reader is almost breathless by the time we reach the climax of the novel.

Ms Brockmann writing is dialogue-heavy, and the action moves fast from the start. The change in point of view between characters is always very clear (no head-hopping here), not just because of how the story is structured, but because the narration and internal dialogue change seamlessly to match the character whose point of view it is. Voice, humor, who and what they see and how they see them, it all fits each character; it’s just top-notch characterization through narrative voice.

And one of the advantages of having so many point-of-view characters is that there’s very little info-dumping; all information about past events or world-building (such as military terms or history, etc), is given organically, through the action and/or dialogue. There are no wasted scenes.

And yes, this includes the sex scenes. There is a lot that can be revealed in moments of vulnerability and intimacy, and while sex is not the only kind of intimacy in the book, by far, what is there matters to the story.

There is violence, including the on-page death of a minor character in a bombing, and a final shootout with the terrorists, that, while shocking, is not gratuitous, as each instance advances the plot and deepens the characterizations.

The humor in the novel is used to great effect to balance, and sometimes diffuse, the high stakes moments. It’s slightly off-color when in Sam’s point of view; dry when in Max’s, and so on. As humor is very personal, Ms Brockmann’s use of it here may not be to every reader’s taste, of course, but again, I think it fits the characters.

The action of the novel takes place in a compressed timeline–a matter of days–but the relationships between the characters have been established long before, and one of the benefits of the structure of the book is that we can see the growth of the characters, from the events in their past, to their interactions in the present.

I still love this novel, as much as I did nineteen years ago; some of the U.S.-centric perspectives in the story choices grate a bit more now, but once the choice to enter the world of the Troubleshooters is made, there must be allowances for that.

Gone Too Far absolutely delivered for fans of the series, while leaving the world open for more stories. 9.25 out of 10.

* * * *

1 In 2003, it was possible to have several people in the military facing real consequences for using deadly force on U.S. soil without a direct order from the appropriate authorities, even though they saved lives, including the in-world President’s, by doing so. In 2022, after a tRump presidency, while staring down the barrel at fascism, this plot point feels tragically naïve.

4 Responses to “Gone Too Far, by Suzanne Brockmann”

  1. Lori 04/02/2022 at 1:41 PM #

    Wow. This review made me tense just reading it…lol. I can’t imagine what the book would do emotionally.

    BTW, started A Holiday by Gaslight and already love it. Thank you so much.

    • azteclady 04/02/2022 at 1:55 PM #

      It’s intense, but really good if you are in the mood for it.

  2. Loverofromance 06/02/2022 at 10:07 AM #

    I had such a blast reading this one years ago. So much goodness in this book but very intense for sure.

    • azteclady 06/02/2022 at 10:45 AM #

      Yes, very intense!

      (That’s really another reason to start at the beginning of the series; it seems to me the previous books would act as ‘training’ for when one gets to this one.)

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