Book reviews à la bookworm...The good, the bad, and everything in between.
Six months after the shot that changed their lives and destinies, Javier Morey is back in Ceuta. This new mission, a continuation of his previous one, is even trickier; he's trying to gather enough proof to apprehend, and imprison one of the leaders of the jihadist cell Akrab in Ceuta—Fátima's husband, Khaled Ashour.
Battling against Fátima's animosity and mistrust, the saintly image Khaled has in the neighborhood of El príncipe, the politics, corruption in his own ranks, and the obstacles his so-called friends and colleagues throw in his way, Morey is willing to do anything, anything to save the woman he loves from the gilded cage she lives in, regain her trust, dismantle the terrorist cell, and maybe, just maybe, have the happily-ever-after he and the love of his life so long for.
This book starts six months after the first ended. Six months after Fátima Ben Barek promised Javier Morey he'd never lose her, only to have her heart shattered by the man she loves killing her little brother. (Let's not forget, her little brother wanted to blow up himself, her, Morey, and a whole bunch of people. Abdu was her little brother, and she cannot forgive the man who killed him.) Well, she'll soon learn that, yes, Morey was the one who shot Abdu, but the one who actually got him killed was the very man she married in order to forget Morey. This is Karma biting you in the ass for forgetting promises, darling.
Anyway, not everybody is happy to see Morey back; Khaled being the first, Fátima the second (yeah, right, she still loved him), her whole family (shooting their little boy sure didn't endear him to them), but most of all his own people, the CNI...The only one remotely happy to see him, is Fran "Six months and not even a text!" Peyón who will turn out to be, yet again, an invaluable ally.
Compared to the first book, this second story was much more complex, much more intricate, with a whole lot of politics and corruption (amongst the presumably good guys, money still rules the world, I guess), and very, very blurred boundaries between right, wrong, and everything in between. If this had a subtitle, Betrayal would be very appropriate. Betrayal of family, betrayal of friends, betrayal of colleagues, betrayal among the good, betrayal among the bad...
The plot had so many twists and turns, so many one-way streets, so many red herring, so many lies, and half-truths, it truly was difficult to see who was the bad guy, who lied, who betrayed, and who told the truth...And what was true in the first place.
And because of all the twists and turns, all the side-plots (some more relevant than the others), the pacing suffered quite a bit. Slow, rather dull moments, and stop-start pacing were abundant.
And yes, because of all the politics, intrigue, spies, double agents, corruption, death, and (prevented) terrorist attacks, not to mention the idiotic Ben Barek family who didn't see the viper in their midsts just because he was a Muslim and a better match for their beloved Fátima, the romance also suffered.
First, because of the whole you-shot-my-brother thing, then you're-a-liar-my-husband-isn't-a-terrorist thing, then the whole my-family-will-never-forgive-you thing, and then the whole heroine and her idiotic reasoning that she can save her family by returning to her abusive, crazily obsessed with her, terrorist of a husband. I didn't like that trait of Fátima in the the first book, her spiel about family and familial honor coming before her own happiness, but I could persuade myself in justifying it with the whole difference in culture, upbringing, and religion. But in this book we're talking about a fucking terrorist, a guy who recruited her little brother and sent him to death (no matter who actually pulled the trigger in the end—for me, Khaled killed Abdu long before Morey killed the terrorist Abdessalam Ben Barek), and you willingly, consciously deciding to live with him to save your family, no matter what the man you love tells you (he's a spy, he could get them all out!), not matter what your older brother, the drug dealer, tells you. This TSTL attitude Fátima displayed this time around, her naivete, if it could be called that, didn't endear her to me at all.
The rest, the action, the intrigue, the mysteries piling up one on top of the other, the danger, was great (despite the pacing issues), gripping and intense, that final "battle" in Granada a fitting, nail-biting first climax.
Then it all slowed down (perfectly paced this time around) only to speed back up toward the second climax at the police station in Ceuta, and barrel into the third climax, the final, intense, bullet-ridden, blood- and tear-splattered showdown on the beach with its shattering ending.
Out of the four finales (one original and three alternatives), I loved the original one with the man who never existed, turning into a ghost, a legend, a demon wreaking havoc in the name of revenge. I loved the bit when he lets it all out, screams out all feeling, only to turn into
"someone without mercy, without a soul, a devil with nothing left to lose: someone who's only driven by revenge, and lives for it".
I got goosebumps reading those last few paragraphs.
And my second favorite is the third alternative finale, the one ending
"very far from there, in a place in the cold Norway, in the far north of Europe, in a place famous for the most beautiful auroras boreales",
a throwback to the ninth chapter of the first book, that longest night and a long talk in the CNI apartment in Ceuta.