Saturday, July 25, 2015

Rounding Out the Reviews with NEXT EXIT, PAY TOLL

There are just some authors who keep bringing you back for more - and that's what we have here today.  After having read the series somewhat out of order (see review of third HERE and first HERE), I'm pleased to bring to you CW Browning's second novel in her Exit series - NEXT EXIT, PAY TOLL.  This one was well worth the wait.

Book Blurb:
All sins are punished one day.

For the ruthless traitor protected deep within Washington, DC, that day has come. Alina Maschik has only one goal: find, expose, and eliminate the person who brought a terrorist onto United States soil. For an assassin trained to hunt for a living, this was a straight-forward, text-book mission. But nothing is ever simple with Alina. Unjustly labeled a rogue agent, she's made it to the top of America's Most Wanted list, her own government wants her dead, and everyone close to her is becoming a target. Now, in order to protect those she loves, Alina must work quickly to uncover the traitor...before they uncover her.

Viper returns in the riveting sequel to Next Exit, 3 Miles, determined to ensure that a national traitor pays for their sins, once and for all.

My Review:
I have to confess - I love this series!  This second novel in the series of three thus far is two thumbs up in my book.  The characters are rich, deep, and three-dimensional.  There are so many luscious layers to peel away to get to the heart of our main characters, and it's a delicious journey getting there.

That's what keeps drawing me back - the characters.  Alina - code name Viper - is a tough chick, with an ingrained sense of justice and right versus wrong.  When she's on the hunt, she's like a bloodhound on the scent.

And that fox ain't gonna get away!

Throw in a little Hawk - real name Damon - and things get fun, not to mention complicated, real quick.

After the culmination of THREE MILES, we begin PAY TOLL a few months later, with Alina hiding in plain sight, flirting with danger, and ready to kick some major butt.  The fearless Feds come after her - but they've got it all wrong.  A high-ranking insider in the D.C. scene paid a well-known but rarely seen international assassin to create chaos on U.S. soil.

However, Alina foiled those plans - and now the crazed perpetrator wants her to pay by placing a target on not only her back but on everyone who helped the Viper.

But as he always has, the Hawk has the Viper's back.

To tell you anymore would be a disservice to those who like a twisted mystery tied up with a thrill ride.  Needless to say, there are explosions of ALL sorts waiting in PAY TOLL.  Even though each main story arc is tied up by the end of each book, there is a real benefit from starting at the beginning and moving forward, as the little things presented in the background of book one explode to the forefront of book two.

Even though I like this series, there are still technical issues that cause gnashing of teeth.  There is a continual overuse of several 'ly' words - in this episode 'slightly' stands at the forefront - as well as a lot of eye narrowing.  Easy fixes.  Yes, most of you by now also know I am a purist when it comes to a single point-of-view per scene/chapter.  PAY TOLL jumps POV around from head-to-head throughout a scene or chapter, which can at times be jarring.

However, the plotting and pacing are excellent - moving along in this one at a greater pace than either of the others at this stage.  As mentioned, the characters are rich and varied.  Scenes are explosive with lots of showing instead of telling (yay!) and we get a good sense of motivation on behalf of our fearsome duo.

If it weren't for the POV issues, this one would easily get a fiver from me.  As it stands - oh heck - I'm feeling generous tonight and will overlook my usual fussiness.  NEXT EXIT, PAY TOLL earns a five star.

Content Warning:  Minimal use of coarse language.  Slight steam in the kettle in one scene, but it tames quickly.  Explosions, death, and assassinations constitute some violence that would be a bit much for younger teens.

Purchase a copy at Amazon.  And don't forget to pick up the first one HERE and the third one HERE.

Author Bio:
CW Browning was writing before she could spell. Making up stories in the backyard with her childhood best friend, imagination ran wild from the very beginning. When she moved to New Jersey from Kansas at the age of seven, those tales became written words as she adjusted to life on the East Coast. Her first full-length novel was printed out on a dot-matrix printer at the age of eight. Through the years, the writing continued as an enjoyable past-time while she pursued other avenues of interest, attending Rutgers University and studying History. In time, though, it became apparent where her heart truly lie. CW still makes up stories in her backyard, but now she crafts them for her readers to enjoy. She makes her home in Southern New Jersey, where she loves to grill organic steak and sip red wine on the patio.

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