Red on the Run is the first of three books in a series by K.M. Hodge, all of which involve a shady organization called The Syndicate. They seek power and influence through violence, intimidation, blackmail and other nefarious means. They are NOT. NICE. PEOPLE. Not so unusual, so far.
But then, we meet Alex and Katherine, our protagonists in this volume. K.M. could have stuck more closely to the trope, but instead, she gives us damaged people. And damaged people are always more interesting.
Katherine is married to Charles, an abusive and violent man who, it turns out, is involved in The Syndicate. She’s also a recovering alcoholic. Alex is a recovering sex addict with PTSD, in part stemming from his failure to protect a young woman he loved while on deployment in the Middle East. Katherine is an FBI agent, assigned to crack the case on The Syndicate, and she has explosive information. Alex is a CIA agent, working undercover as an FBI agent, and has been assigned as her partner, and to protect the information she has. Their first meeting is in a bar, and sparks fly. These characters, and a cast of supporting members, put us on a roller coaster that take the reader on a ride of a story involving life, death, love, loss and family bonds.
Ms. Hodge starts the pace of the suspense story a little slowly, gradually speeding up to the point (around 30% on my Kindle) where the story hooked me in solidly. The relationship between Alex and Kate builds in intensity, encounters hurdles and obstacles, and begins to resolve, only to take us around a turn once more and start the slow and inevitable climb to another breakneck loop around the track of this story. The effort to unravel The Syndicate follows a similar track, with both story lines intersecting and weaving, then splitting apart, then coming back together.
I always have a few thoughts after reading a book about how the story could have been strengthened, or a character rounded. In the case of this book, there are two places where I think some subtle changes could have been made.
The first is in Katherine’s alcoholism. Although it’s mentioned in the beginning of the story that she goes to meetings with Charles, I think that a few more mentions could have helped strengthen the readers’ understanding of her empathy when Alex reveals his own addiction. As it reads now, the disclosure of her own substance problems has happened so far before there’s a second discussion of them, that it almost seems “out of the blue.”
Second, Ms. Hodge is highly skilled at creating tension and expectation in her story. But I think that often, there are “mini” arcs of that tension and expectation that don’t result in a BIG EVENT (or even a kind of small event). It’s the writing style. But, as above, a slightly lighter hand with this could make a big impact when the several major twists, turns and events really DO explode on the page.
I will absolutely be reading the next two books in this series, and adding the author’s Texas Wife series to my reading list, as well. This is an author to watch.
The Kindle edition is available now. Print is due out soon.
Red on the Run, on Amazon.com