Chemical Burn by Quincy J. Allen – 4 stars
The last thing Los Angeles needed was a high-tech, ex-assassin from another world setting up shop as a private detective. They got one anyway, in the form of Justin Case, a smart-ass killing machine looking for a little redemption.
When one of Case’s closest friends turns up dead, the alien detective and his predatory partner Magdelain track down an Italian mobster secretly hammering L.A. with a new designer drug. Case must call in favors from a bare-knuckles brawler tied to the Russian mob and a hot-bodied sniper who makes a mean cappuccino. Before the end, he’ll even put the love of his life in harm’s way and risk everything by revealing his greatest secret.
I picked this book up at WorldCon 2015 and read it in a single day. Case is hilarious and fun, and the supporting cast really supports. The complexities of the plot kept me engaged and the minor romance angle felt natural and not contrived. All the action and violence worked and I never got confused by it.
All that said, I wish Rachel was a stronger character. As Justin’s love interest, she seemed a little lackluster compared to everyone else. Not that she’s flat or two-dimensional, but the rest of the characters felt more “real” than she did. Additionally, the one semi-explicit, soft-core sex scene happened after a handful of fade-to-black sex scenes, and the arrangement of them in the timeline struck an off chord for me.
The book sticks a toe or ten over the line into campy here and there, but I didn’t mind because it made me laugh out loud more than once. I did feel like Justin had a little too easy of a time with the challenges he faced sometimes, yet I still found the story satisfying.
I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys action thrillers or smartass protagonists. It’s definitely not appropriate for readers under age 16 and probably best suited for those 18+.
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