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By: Amy Lutz
Backfire is the most recent addition to Catherine Coulter’s series of FBI thrillers about the exploits of married FBI agents Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock. In this novel, Savich and Sherlock are called to the aid of an old friend, Judge Ramsey Hunt, after he is shot, presumably because of his part in a high-stakes espionage case in San Francisco. Meanwhile, Agent Dillon Savich receives a note stating: “For what you did you deserve this,” in his DC office. What ensues is the lengthy account of Savich and Sherlock’s mission to solve both the shooting while tying it to the mysterious threat. Although this is the 16th novel in the series, it serves easily as a stand-alone read, as do all of Coulter’s FBI thrillers (My journey with the series actually started with the 12th novel of the series Tailspin). Backfire does, however, resurrect characters from previous novels ( i.e. Judge Ramsey Hunt). Coulter-newbies might find jumping into a series in the middle of its run daunting, but in Backfire, Catherine Coulter weaves an engaging tale of mystery, romance and action tempting to all readers with a taste of adventure.
Backfire certainly is a hefty read; clocking in at a respectable 403 pages. It’s certainly not a novel that will slip easily into a purse or rest unnoticed on a corner coffee table. However, despite the length of the novel, I breezed through its crisp pages in a mere two days. The plots in Coulter’s FBI series tend to be someone predictable and in terms of character development, Backfire was no different. I realized several books earlier that there is a certain formula to the personal relationships in this series. Savich and Sherlock stand at the forefront of whatever FBI case is on the table. Either husband or wife face a brush with death at some point during the novel, but as the plot winds down, their relationship is stronger than ever. Meanwhile, the dynamic duo partners with two other law enforcement agents, a male a female. The latter pair soon find that they are attracted to one another, initially butt heads, but eventually end up in each others’ arms. And so on and so forth…The romantic relationships in Coulter’s FBI series tend to be about as shocking as a Katherine Heigl film: predictable and clichéd.
Despite the lack of romantic shock and awe in Backfire, the plot did have its fair share of thematic twists and unexpected events. It was the mystery, not the romance, that kept me on the edge of my seat. About halfway through the book, you’ll probably find yourself sighing as you realize you’ve already figured out the solution to the novel’s central mystery. Not so fast. The finale of the plot is both unexpected and exciting. You’ll be glad you hung on for the ride.
While most of the novel was packed full of action, it was not without a positive theme. Both loyalty and family were praised highly in Backfire. On several occasions, Savich and Sherlock’s relationship was regarded by other characters with disbelief from other characters. Few believed that the couple could remain bonded through the chaos and danger of their professions. However, Savich and Sherlock defied the doubts and remained devoted to each other, especially when one of the duo’s life was in the balance. The actions of other characters reflected Coulter’s value of the family. Almost every character, villains included, faced losing a significant other at some point in the novel. Threats upon the family were portrayed as being the most threatening; the most dangerous. Often characters would risk life and limb to protect the ones they loved. The heroes of the story portrayed virtues of selfless love and loyal obedience.
Unlike some of Coulter’s earlier FBI thrillers, Backfire is relatively tame in terms of sexual content. In a few chapters, sex is implied but a descriptive account is not provided. However, considering that this novel is an FBI thriller, it does have its fair share of violence. Gun shot wounds, knife injuries and murders are detailed, but explicit gore is not included. There was little to no graphic violence in the novel, but suspense and action were present throughout. I’d give Backfire a solid 3 out of 5 stars. It is certainly not Catherine Coulter’s best work, but its inventive plot and PG-13 rating make it an enjoyable weekend read.
Amy Lutz is a blogger and political activist.