Author ~ Abigail Roux
Publisher ~ Riptide Publishing
Published ~ 29th March 2015
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance
It’s been five years since Special Agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett first worked together to solve the Tri-State murders, and time has been both harsh and kind. Engaged now, they face the challenge of planning a deeply uncertain future together. Zane is at the pinnacle of his career with one last mystery to solve, while Ty is at sea in a world where he’s no longer the tip of a spear.
There’s just one more hurdle in the way of their happy ever after: a traitor from their inner circle who threatens to burn their world to the ground.
Squeezed between the Vega cartel, an unknown mole, and too many alphabet agencies to count, Ty and Zane must gather all their strength and resources to beat the longest odds they’ve ever faced. To make it out alive, they’ll need help from every friend they’ve got. Even the friends who might betray their trust.
A Perfect Ending
Crash & Burn is the ninth and last installment of the iconic Cut & Run series. With this book, Ms. Roux ends the saga that started as a collaboration with her co-author, Madeleine Urban, and became a solo effort following book 4. We learn, in the author’s notes, that the original division of labor between the two authors was that one wrote Ty, the other wrote Zane. Starting with book five, Ms. Roux took on both and, I must say, the transition was pretty much seamless.
For those who don’t already know, Ty and Zane are Federal Agents (FBI), both of whom are gay, though initially, deep in the closet. In the first book, Cut & Run, Zane is just coming off a profoundly disturbing and unsettling long-term undercover operation, posing as the lover of the head of the most notorious drug cartel operating in South Florida. Lots of people want him dead. Ty is the hand-picked right arm of Director Richard Burns, a close friend of Ty’s father - their friendship was forged in the crucible of Vietnam. Burns is virtually a father to Ty. I suppose the partnership between Ty and Zane was supposed to be the pairing of opposites. That turns out not to quite be the case, as we discover in Crash & Burn. Burns was not a good guy.
That’s the beauty of this final book in the series: it turns out that not much was as it seemed throughout the first eight books, and all is finally revealed. The talented Ms. Roux handles this wrap-up with energy, aplomb and polish. I worried about how she would handle it, aware of the risk that this final book could devolve into a less-than-satisfying compilation of flashbacks, but she avoids that trap most adroitly. All the action in this book is action moving forwards, and the past is explained and illuminated only by what is happening now. Behind-the-scenes manipulations, unforgivable motivations and a callous disregard for human life (even of those you’re supposed to love) all rear their ugly heads as Crash & Burn races to its exciting climax.
For many of us, Cut & Run was our introduction to a whole new world of possibilities in gay fiction. Defying all romance traditions, this whole series is an amazing epic consisting of national and international crime thrillers and deadly high-speed action. Good thrillers, I might add, with impressive villains, rogue agencies, drug cartels and players who, until this very last book, don’t reveal whether they’re heroes or villains. The fact that the men are gay? That’s a side issue. These books were not gay action thrillers, these were action thrillers that just happened to feature a powerful, smart and occasionally ruthless (when required) pair of gay men. They not only learn to get along, but to build a life together, share a love that ripens from the violent lust of their first encounters into the mature affection and passion of people who have been together for a long time and love and trust each other without reservation. As we journey from book-to-book, we get to know their histories, their families, their dreams (both individual and shared), their friends, their strong moral code and we get to watch them grow and develop as agents, men, and as a committed couple.
I’m working really hard not to give away any spoilers in this review, but let’s just say Ty and Zane get to finally express their commitment to one another in a most surprising and moving scene set in the Baltimore Harbor. It’s a gem of writing, and the culmination of more than 8 years of adventure, danger, death and love.
It almost goes without saying that Ms. Roux is an extraordinarily talented author. The characters she has created are so vivid and real, they jump off the page at the reader. More than once, I had an almost irresistible desire to duck to avoid a punch or bullet that seemed to come out of my Kindle, right at my face. I survived. So do Ty and Zane.
Some long-time characters do not, however, in the final conflict between Ty and Zane, Ty’s former military team (The Sidewinders), the CIA, the NRI, the Cartel and even the Miami police. And some characters whom you will assume to be dead, miraculously end up in a hospital healing, slowly, but healing nonetheless.
Aside from Abigail Roux, not many authors could have come up with the colorful, but realistic, Appalachian family that loves their son, Ty, unconditionally - including his crazy grandfather, Chester, who, even at an advanced age, trounces evildoers with the garden shovel he keeps on his person at all times. He’s the crazy old coot who always speaks the truth, regardless of the consequences.
Add to that a whole platoon of former Force Recon soldiers who served under Ty in some dangerous, secret operations in unnamed foreign countries, and who still function as a multi-talented, perfectly-trained and -tuned family of soldiers who protect each other at the risk of their own lives. These are men who come running to help, even when they haven’t been asked. They’re so cool, so complex and so powerful, that Ms. Roux has spun them off into their own series, the “Sidewinder” books. They’re back for the grand finale of Cut & Run.
Despite all the macho posturing, marine loyalty, guns, bombs and physical conflict, Ms. Roux is also a great master at weaving moving moments of love and affection into the heart-stopping action. It is nothing less than beautiful to see the attraction that started out as fistfights between these two powerful, independent men, grown into an exquisite, uncomplicated and utterly unbreakable love. If it doesn’t move you, you may not have a heart.
There are many ways that Ms. Roux could have ended this brilliant and path-blazing series. She could have just let the clock run out, killed one of the beloved characters off, or just phoned in one final thriller. Thankfully, she did none of those. Instead, she delivered a brand new, fresh, thriller leavened with a perfect balance of love, friendship and commitment that evokes thrills, fears, anger, disappointment, tears and even occasional laughter. She created a “perfect ending” by making the final book in this series one of its best.
Thank you, Ms. Roux for eight years of wonderful reading, brilliant characters and a perfect ending.