Review: High Stakes by Iris Johansen
Loosely tied to the Eve Duncan series, this book seemingly comes out of no where. I scratched my head several times as I tried to place where I have seen Logan Tanner's character. I want to say that he was someone that Eve made use of in one of her escapades. I'm not 100% certain. I was able to figure out why Kaskov seemed so familiar. He is Cara's grandfather who was an aspiring musician until his possible career was brutally ended. Now he is a mafia boss who patrons incredible musicians. Not knowing this backstory will not impact this story. This can be read as a standalone.
In some ways, this story reminded me of the movie Hanna. Although not with a supportive father, more a horrible father who should be shot. If there is one thing I can consistently count on from Ms. Johansen in her contemporary romance suspense, it is the element of darkness. This one highlights the horrors of human trafficking. I find this term, "human trafficking" to be disingenuous because it is a sugar coating of the word slavery. For people to think slavery is no longer in existence, it is sadly laughable how willful people like to wear their blinders.
Maria is a gently bred English girl whose been a sex slave for too many years. Quite honestly, I'm not sure if this is a positive or negative thing. Positive in that Maria survived this long that she may have a chance to escape. Negative in that she spent years at the hands of brutal men raping her at their whim. Her plight is well described by Ms. Johansen. From the research I've done on human trafficking, it is brutal and with a very short shelf life because of the horrendous conditions people are kept in and the drugs they are fed to keep them docile and obedient.
Maria is the leash used to rein Lara in. Lara is her daughter and the one given crazy challenges for two men to bet on. When she loses, she faces dire consequences. Everything about this set up is disgusting and inhumane. The bad guys in this book are 100% evil villains and should be shot. Wipe them all out. There is just enough graphic details that makes me want to go in with rocket launcher and blow them to bits.
When Tanner is tasked to extract Lara for the price of much needed information, he finds himself shocked and intrigued. Lara's piano playing is out of this world. Yet she's lethal as she'd had to learn so many things on her own in order to survive the challenges. When it comes to being independent and suspicious, Lara has it down pat. Her constant head to head arguments with Tanner are fiery. I like Lara not trusting anyone yet. I also like how she is skilled enough to help Tanner out when he needs an extra helping hand.
This story is a wild ride and at times a little disorienting. The pace is slow at times and then suddenly picks up and moves quickly. The little twists and turns to get Tanner what he wants and also grant Lara freedom from the men wanting her is exciting to watch. This thriller is recommended to readers who enjoy romance to their suspense and a female lead who can take care of business.