Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Dee Davis -- Enigma

Rated: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ .   {4.45}
Action: ♠♠♠. / Emotion: ♣♣♣♣ / Romance: ♥♥♥♥ / Sensuous: ♦♦. / Suspense: ♠♠♠♠.
Action: 3.5 / Emotion: 4 / Romance: 4 / Sensuous: 2.5 / Suspense: 4.25 // Laughter: 0 / Teary: 1

e·nig·ma   (noun)
1.     a puzzling or inexplicable occurrence or situation
2.     a person of puzzling or contradictory character

What an appropriate name for the second book in Dee Davis's The Last Chance Trilogy -- Enigma.   When met Payton Reynolds, the very complex hero of Enigma (in Endgame, first book of the trilogy), was sure that his story would be deeply emotional and moving as Davis explained how this quietly strong man dealt with the emotional scars that had to be as distinctive as the one that spanned his face.   Was very impressed with the way Davis slowly peeled back the layers of Payton's personality as his story was told to the spunky, 'strong enough to handle Payton' heroine, Samantha "Sam" Waters by his two best friends Gabriel "Gabe" Roarke and Nigel Ferris.

Payton hid his deep emotional intensity behind a facade of stoicism and the appearance of not caring about anyone or anything.   Because Davis spent so much time dealing with the emotional issues in Payton's past instead of featuring his very macho Delta Force skills, he could have come across as a wimp.   And while, Payton did not have that same mysterious aura that surrounded him in Endgame, he still came across as a strong, intelligent, 'don't mess with me' alpha hero.   Instead of trotting out Payton's history by featuring extensive flashbacks, Davis cleverly revealed the turmoil of Payton's feelings (regarding the devastation that resulted during the hostage extraction in Iraq (that bonded the three friends)) -- Davis revealed Payton's guilt and anguish by looking at those parallel feelings as they were currently being experienced by Sam as she plotted her way through Enigma.

Was disappointed that Davis choose not to feature Payton's skills and prowess as a warrior and protector during his story.   The only time Payton got to display his finely-tuned operative skills was in the very beginning of the book, when Davis wrote a concise, attention-grabbing action scene.   After that, any action that occurred (quite often of the police procedural variety) could be attributed to the very independent heroine of the book.

Should have felt more of an emotional connection to Sam because of her love and hero worship of her father.   Even though Sam was a natural when it came to bomb building and defusing, she was walking in her father's footsteps.   In fact, Sam wore Bill Waters' "master blaster" insignia around her neck.   Where was the anguish when Sam remembered the loss of her father five years ago -- to cancer.

Sam also lost her mother at the same time because her father was the glue that held the family together.   No father meant no family.   Sam eventually realized, though, that just because she wasn't anything like her mother, nor did she understand Elizabeth, she could still have a relationship with her -- if she took off the "do not touch" sign.   That was the one aspect of Sam's personality that was off-putting.   Her determined insistence that she did not need to be protected.   She tended to get irrationally angry if anyone (particularly Payton) tried to shield her from the horrors that can be found at a bomb site.   What Sam sees as independence and strength, was more like a "hands off -- there is nothing I can't handle by myself" sign.

Sam is the mirror image of Payton -- except, instead of being a hunk of macho male -- she's a self-contained dynamo wrapped in a tiny package of femininity.   An avowed adrenaline junkie, Sam has learned that it was too difficult to try and sustain a personal or intimate relationship and has concentrated all her efforts on the job she loves as an Explosives Enforcement Officer with the ATF.   After Sam successfully defuses a bomb at a preschool in Waleska, Georgia, Sam's boss informs her that she is being loaned out to industrialist Cullen Pulaski for his Last Chance task force.

Cullen needs a bomb specialist on the team because the powers that be wanted to find the man who bombed the Prager hotel in San Antonio, killing three high-ranking senators.   Enjoyed the picture Davis painted of the returning team members through the eyes of Sam as she watched them reunite in Austin.   Love the fact that Davis includes characters from the previous book -- that they didn't drop off the face of the earth now that their story had been told.   It was wonderful to watch a now six-months pregnant Madison interact with her husband, Gabe (still the team leader).

Liked the way that Davis has developed Madison's character as she moves through this book.   Madison is still as sharp as ever and adds great insight as to the possible psyche of the bomber.   But, now instead of trying to be "top dog," Madison assumes a nurturing role.   Madison's relationship with Gabe is not as volatile and they have no problems displaying their peacefulness with one another.   Another role Madison easily assumes is one of befriending Sam.   Because Madison sees the attraction developing between Sam and Payton, she lets Sam know that Payton is a worthy man, who deserves a chance at happiness.

Davis displays a wonderful talent by creating moments of romance and inspiring a beautiful wistfulness within the reader by having Sam acknowledge the scar across Payton's face as something to be cherished.   Can just imagine the sense of acceptance and healing that Payton feels during his intimate moments with Sam:
reaching up to trace the line of his scar.   "I'm ready if you are."   (page 166)
"I'm positive," . . . her thumb caressing the line of his scar.   (page 173)
her fingers tracing the pattern of the scar, the gesture oddly intimate.   (page 181)
She reached up to touch his face . . . "I'm not going anywhere . . . "   (page 185)
Davis did not skimp on the sensuality either.   There is heat, sizzle and passion when Payton and Sam make love.   Davis does a great job of meshing the emotional, sometimes vulnerable, connections with the spice during lovemaking.   Then she throws in a line that just ties everything together:
"She accepted him as is -- period."   (page 242)
Harrison Blake remained an interesting and integral part of the team.   Harrison seemed to spend more time interacting with Sam than any other team member (except Payton, of course).   Davis is slowly revealing that there are unplumbed depths to Harrison as he exhibits his incredible talent on the computer while he works closely with Sam in the lab where she reconstructs the fragments of the bombs that are being set off with regularity throughout the book.   Harrison is a fascinating character and am anxious to read his story (Deadly Dance, Book 6 of The A-Tac Series).

Even though Cullen was the man behind the team, he did not play a bold, integral part in this book.   Liked the fact that Davis utilized Cullen to put the characters back together for another book, but for the most part, left him working in the background.   Davis found a way to put Nigel back on the team after she had him booted out at the end of book one (Endgame).   Nigel had unearthed some devastating news that he felt Payton needed to know regarding the Iraq operation that had cost him so much.

Davis does a phenomenal job of keeping the suspense level of the book at a constant level of intensity by giving the bomber, J.T., a point of view voice during the entire book.   J.T. reveals to the reader the reason for each bomb, while the task force had to spend time shifting through bomb fragments and unplanned-for events that lead to misdirection.   Was constantly wondering who J.T. was and why he felt such a close connection to Sam.   Did Sam date him?   Did she work with him?   What was in his childhood that made him this way?   (Feeling very Madison-like.)   Another thing that Davis did really well was fleshing out J.T. -- making him feel real, vivid and memorable.   For instance: J.T. loves Nolan Ryan: {1} has a bobble head of Nolan on his dash; {2} Nolan's jersey on his wall; and {3} broke into Nolan Ryan museum.

All in all, Enigma, is an entertaining, suspenseful, romantic read.   Will leave it on "to be re-read" list, since reading it a third time has to be just as engaging as the first and second reads.
--Vonda M. Reid (Tuesday, April 10, 2012 : 2:10 a.m.)     [224]

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The Last Chance Trilogy
# Date Title Hero Heroine
01.03-2005EndgameGabriel "Gabe" Roarke / CIAMadison Harper / FBI
02.06-2005EnigmaPayton Reynolds / CIASamantha "Sam" Waters / AFT EEO
03.09-2005ExposureNigel Ferris / MI6Melissa Pope / CIA

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Enigma Quotations:
39"Payton Reynolds made the strong and silent type look chatty."
43"In his world there were two kinds of women.   Those who used sex to their advantage, and those who couldn't use it because they didn't have it."   "Sam had it.   But apparently no one had sent her the memo."
250"everyone dealt with life in different ways."

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Characters Found In "Enigma"
Character Description / Relationships
Payton Reynolds[Hero] CIA black ops specialist: (21) years of training in stealth; mind completely centered on task at hand (22) tall; well built; grace of more than a casual athlete; moved quickly, quietly in constant state of vigilance; green eyes; sleek black hair; jagged scar bisected his face from brow line to chin (31) 3 tours with Delta Force; CIA (33) dark; quiet intensity (39) doesn't trust easily, when does, friend for life (40) not a rule follower (45) an inner stillness; inner sight that saved his ass more than once (53) dark brows (56) somber intensity (58) testosterone-laden intensity (61) intricate pattern of scar tissue laced across his left shoulder, stretching down his abdomen and across his bicep to his elbow; knife wounds; bullet holes (63) haunted; content in own skin (67) quiet insight (68) green eyes (69) mother died when he was 11 (70) felt deeply, despite protestations to the contrary (73) preferred action to reaction; more patience than most (77) outward displays of emotion scared him (92) kept world at arm's length; lived in the moment (114) before Iraq, boisterous, funny; afterward totally different; everything turned inward; using his strength as shield against world (145) dangerous; perceptive (170) grew up in army; believes in chain of command; code of honor (199)
Samantha "Sam" Waters[Heroine] best bomb specialist around: not a 'sit on the sidelines' kind of girl (14) tiny (15) AFT EEO (Explosives Enforcement Officer) (16) with ATF couple years (17) youngest EEO in history of division; hotshot; not a team player; cut teeth on Oklahoma City bombing (30) never backed down (33) mental chess her game of choice (40) started out in crime scene investigation; first step from city-based work to national was FBI Emergency Response Team; adrenaline junkie (42) loner; looked fragile, almost delicate (43) straight shooter (48) wore father's master blaster insignia on chain (69) pretty anal; doesn't take orders well (72) exuberant (92) Texas A&M (104) loved job; physiology, psychology of bombs (105) meticulous to a fault (111) kept world at arm's length; lived in the moment (114) self-contained (118) hazy blue eyes; dusting of freckles across her nose (182) free spirit; ambitious (224)
. . .. . .
Ronald Adkins[No Appearance] Ruth's boyfriend; dating six months; attended University of New Mexico (227)
Kay Armstrong[No Appearance] Elizabeth Water's friend (220)
Angela[Brief Appearance] teacher at day care (334)
Amanda Atherton[Brief Appearance] Walter's wife (76) ringed hand lined with age (115) woman of strength (116)
Walter Atherton[Brief Appearance] FBI Director (76) considered Sam his protégé (101) lived in McLean, Virginia (110)
Winston Belker[Brief Appearance] wealthy; local nut job; shows up at political functions, usually drunk (210)
Mariam Akhtar Benold[No Appearance] Payton's wife; dead for years (48) fast and furious relationship; French journalist; very smart; very beautiful; loved living on the edge (144) Mariam Akhtar Benold; born in Iran; father a French trader; mother a Persian; father working for French underground; sold her services to highest bidder (257)
Harrison Blake[Major Secondary Character] based in Austin (28) bulk of career working for computer forensics company called Phoenix; indispensable to Last Chance; genius with megabytes and cyberspace (29) looked like sexy English professor; bedhead tousled hair curling aimlessly around his ears and neck; odd combination of green and brown eyes; "the boy next door with intelligent eyes" (40) hell of a researcher; tenacious (49) computer whiz; hell of a team member (80) in Madison's class at Quantico; left FBI for Phoenix; fine lines framed face and mouth; lost sister to home intruder when in high school (96) cornerstone of his charm: boyish enthusiasm and intelligence (97) something comforting (118) took everything in stride (297)
Jason Briggs[One Appearance] Waleska, Georgia / 20-something bomb technician (14)
John Brighton[No Appearance] force behind Pheonix; smartest man Harrison ever knew; stress of big business nearly killed him; turned to crime solving instead (96)
Maggie Carmichael[One Appearance] Waleska, Georgia / jilted Frank; teacher at First Baptist Preschool (14)
Aimil Cortez[One Appearance] Peruvian jungle / Payton's assassination assignment / wanted in six countries; exorbitant price on head (21)
Ruth Cramer[No Appearance] Sam's mother's boarder (70) Cramer: (215) attended University of New Mexico; from Clayton (near Texas border); parents own feed store (227)
Farley Dawson[Brief Appearance] Senator; sits on appropriations (28) Ruskland's enemy (43) Episcopal (139)
Elliot Drummond[Brief Appearance] friend of Sam's; used to work together in bureau; cautious; by-the-book; everything in proper place; tall; lanky (148)
Nigel Ferris[Major Secondary Character] [Hero of Book 3] British Special Forces (141) craggy face; pencil-thin mustache; MI6 to the core; Payton's fried, lot of history (255) neatly trimmed beard and mustache; English accent (260)
Billy Fletcher[No Appearance] first grade bully at Sunset Elementary (277)
Joe Franklin[No Appearance] senior officer in Abilene bomb squad (296) married; three kids; worked with Sam (297)
Uncle George[No Appearance] Maggie's husband; farm in Oklahoma (221)
Goodacre[No Appearance] Payton's Delta Force team mate (177)
Randy Howson[No Appearance] worked arson for fire department (296) now works in Fargo, ND (297)
Frank Ingram[No Appearance] Waleska, Georgia / rejected suitor; planted bomb at First Baptist Preschool (13)
Big John[No Appearance] Houston, Texas / knee-caping bookie (88)
Melanie "Mel" Johnson[Brief Appearance] teacher at day care on West Lynn; bigger than Sam; had to stay behind with Sam (335)
James Thomas Riker
[Major Secondary Character] unknown bomber (11) intelligent; sense of humor (59) real pro; planned long time; meticulous work; precise (91) Madison's profile: above average intelligence; possible chart-breaking IQ; loner; not good in social situations; attended, but didn't finish college; tried to find work with explosives (police or military); disdainful of authority; not prone to relationships; loyal when does (131) wiry man (157) good; arrogant; paranoid (165) obsessively neat, clean, orderly (246) perfectionist (250) James Thomas Riker (320) born in Detroit; father an assembly line worker; mother a beautician; 5 siblings (321) sunken eyes; sallow skin; receding hairline (346)
Robert Keith[Brief Appearance] Senator; ranking member of Ruckland's party (28) Ruckland's enemy (43) Robert Keith (82)
Mackenzie[No Appearance] Payton's Delta Force team mate (177)
Aunt Maggie[No Appearance] Elizabeth Water's sister; farm in Oklahoma (221)
Edwin Marcus[Brief Appearance] his M.O. matches Prager bomb; Sam helped put him away 3-y-a; 3-time loser; liked pipe bombs; out on bail; living in Houston (85) didn't kill people (89)
Captain McBane[One Appearance] Waleska, Georgia / fire chief; ranking officer at scene (15)
Henry Norton[No Appearance] fired; lost wife to cancer; Sam defused bomb he set in Abilene (267)
Joe Patemo[No Appearance] his M.O. matches Prager bomb; serving life in Colorado penitentiary (85)
Cullen Pulaski[Major Secondary Character] industrialist (20) always cut right to chase (27) political weight; money; not team player; tackled life with own rules (30) probing gaze; mind obviously moving ahead to next move (40) not a rule follower (45) control freak; attention to detail, personal involvement biggest contributors to his success (100)
Kevin Reynolds[No Appearance] Payton's brother; 3 years younger; killed in Iraqi raid (70)
Andrea Roarke[One Appearance] new baby (359)
Gabriel "Gabe" Roarke[Major Secondary Character] [Hero of Book 1] headed up Last Chance; worked counter-terrorism for CIA (28) overprotective (29) dark as Payton; complex mix of machismo and power; glacier-eyed gaze; "one didn't cross easily" (39) not a rule follower (45) had nose for dives (47) used to making decisions unilaterally; alpha male machismo (61) Iraq increased intensity of his no-nonsense attitude (80) spent entire professional life working in shadows, taken a toll (146) relentless when wanted information (228)
Madison Roarke[Major Secondary Character] [Heroine of Book 1] Gabe's wife; Cullen's goddaughter; 6 months pregnant; FBI profiler with uncanny knack for seeing the world through eyes of vermin (29) tall; blond; seemed off-putting; compassionate eyes; inspired loyalty among friends (39) thoughtful gray eyes (40) not tainted by father's money (49) wore pregnancy well; glowed; tough (79)
Zachary Robertson [No Appearance] his M.O. matches Prager bomb; paralyzed himself during his last bomb (85)
Senator Joseph Ruckland[Brief Appearance] killed in San Antonio bombing (21) Joe; highest ranking democrat in country (28) Joseph; Texas senior senator (37) fought in Vietnam; Baptist church (139)
Raymond Seavers[Brief Appearance] Sam's boss (20)
Jack Sloane[One Appearance] Ruckland's head man (133) Armani suit; wire-rimmed glasses; tone held combination of reserve and approachability (134) gray eyes; ladies man (135)
Tyler[No Appearance] Payton's Delta Force team mate (177)
Bud Walker[Brief Appearance] senator from New Mexico; republican; fifth term (137) politically perfect smile (205) arrogant (206)
Wallenski[No Appearance] Payton's Delta Force team mate (177)
Bill Waters[No Appearance] Sam's father; man's man; career Army; served in war-ravaged corners of the world; a master blaster; there wasn't an ordnance out there he couldn't defuse; cancer killed him 5 years ago; the spark in their family; the glue that held them together; an inner stillness; inner sight that saved his ass more than once (53)
Elizabeth Waters[Secondary Character] Sam's mother; lived in Albuquerque; Bill the love of her life (53) faded blue eyes same color as Sam's (218) 62-y-o (243)
Carl Ziegler[No Appearance] took over ERT when Walter promoted; Elliot's boss; top hazardous device forensics; hard taskmaster (149)

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Dee Davis
♠   Website
♣   The Whine Sisters (Blog)
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♣   Fantastic Fiction
♥    FictionDB

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Enigma Reviews:
RatedPostedSiteNotes, Comments, Etc.
5.0006-....-2005A Romance Review 
4.50 average{6 reviews}Amazonas of: May 15, 2012
3.0006-30-2007Babbling Book Reviews 
4,75 average{4 reviews}Barnes & Nobleas of: May 15, 2012
2.88 average{8 reviews}Good Readsas of: May 15, 2012
4.60 average{2 reviews}Library Thingas of: May 15, 2012
4.28 average{13 reviews}Paperback Swapas of: May 15, 2012
4.50 Top Pick06-....-2005RT (Romantic Times) Book Reviews2005 Romantic Intrigue Nominee
4.50 average{2 reviews}Shelfarias of: May 15, 2012
4.4505-15-2012Wolf Bear Does Booksshorter post on Amazon, B&N, FictionDB, GR, LT, Shelfari

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♥  Disclaimer:   I Purchased This Book
♥  Very Subjective Rating
♥  Willing to share Cheat Sheet
    ♦  in whole or in part
    ♦  WordPerfect or PDF
♣  Will add your Enigma review link to table, just ask

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