Saturday, March 2, 2013

Review: Collusion

Collusion by Eden Winters

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This sequel to [bc:Diversion|13453486|Diversion|Eden Winters||18980089] fully lived up to the expectations said first installment aroused. Again, the overall subject matter were shady goings-on around legal prescription drugs, cancer medications in this case. The scary thing is, there's a real background to this book's plot. As the author states in a foreword, there has been a perilous shortage of vital drugs in the US for a while now, creating a gray market where artificially run-short pharmaceuticals are sold at horrendous prices--and the hospitals desperate enough to buy there can't even be sure they don't get poisonous counterfeit or stuff rendered ineffective through wrong handling.

Anyway, to the story. It starts with a bang, and we're right in the middle of an action against larcenous warehouse employees, listening to Lucky's compelling narrative voice. As the blurb states, former drug trafficker Lucky Lucklighter "died" in the previous book, only to be reborn as Simon Harrison, agent to a DEA subdivision. Lucky and his partner, Bo, are later on assigned to an undercover stint in a children's cancer clinic in order to dig up gray market dealings going on there. And that's where the combats start--on several frontlines at once.

Pharmacist Bo, discharged from the Marines due to PTSD and consequently led astray from the straight and narrow by a drug addiction, takes the sickly children's fates to heart, so much so that he almost forgets he's "only" undercover as the clinic's pharmaceutical buyer and not actually responsible for the patient's care. He works himself half to death trying to provide much-needed meds for the children and comes perilously close to getting caught in the very trap he's supposed to set.

Lucky thinks he's better at keeping his distance, but finds that he isn't immune to the children's suffering. On top of that, Bo and Lucky are more than just work partners. Lucky might fight it as hard as he wants, he's getting emotionally involved, much to his horror. Lucky has learned the hard way that forming attachments only causes trouble; he can see his partner's predicament and attempts to make him see reason--and suddenly he finds himself playing opposite Bo instead of at his side. Will their work partnership survive this conflict? And what about their private relationship, which Lucky found himself barely able to acknowledge so far and now realizes is more than worth taking a risk for?

Like in the previous book, Lucky's narrative voice captured me from the start. It's as cynical, snarky, and straightforward as Lucky is himself, or as Bo puts it, "all cocky bantam rooster" and a delight to read. Although we only see Bo through Lucky's eyes, we get a good picture of his fierce honorableness and his stubborn determination to believe in the good in humanity. The latter makes Bo vulnerable, which in turn wakes a strange sense of protectiveness in Lucky the likes of which he'd thought long gone from his ability. As they work together to overcome both the outward threat and their private issues, they grow, together and toward each other.
The ending was just the cherry on top, so very appropriate for those two men and their respective personalities, satisfyingly warm but still open enough to leave room for the two of them to grow further.

Highly recommended!

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