“Made To Be Broken – Nadia Stafford #2” by Kelley Armstrong – we finally get inside the head of our hitwoman-with-principles

made to be broken

A unique idea, strong characters, a fast pace and well written scenes made “Made To Be Broken” a pleasure to read and showed that Kelley Armstrong is just as good at writing about thoroughly human monsters as she is at writing about werewolves, witches and demons.

“Exit Strategy” introduced Nadia Stafford, a disgraced ex-cop who moonlights as a hitman to keep her wilderness lodge business open, tracking down a rogue hitman with the help of her mentor, Jack and Quinn, an FBI agent who occasionally kills the people he can’t convict. I enjoyed the book but it suffered from an “Episode One, Series One” feel.

“Made To Be Broken”, the second book in the series, has the same characters and the same moral ambiguity but much faster pace and a more interesting plot with more surprises in it, but what sold me on the book is that I finally got inside Nadia Stafford’s head.

In most books, Nadia would be the bad guy, and a fairly scary bad guy at that. In this book, Nadia is working to do something good, rescue a teenage employee of the wilderness lodge and her baby who seem to have been kidnapped, but her pursuit of justice is entirely outside the law.

Nadia is not a vigilante. She is more like a professional carpenter volunteering her time to a charity building project except that Nadia’s professional skill is tracking people down and executing them.

The book is character, rather than plot driven. We learn a lot more about the things in Nadia’s past that formed her. We see her able to relate emotionally to other killers but being able to pull the trigger and do her job without a moment’s hesitation. Kelley Armstrong evokes the emotions Nadia experiences, making her human without making her a hero.

There are no sharp edges in the this book. Nadia sometimes behaves in a way that screams pyschopath and yet is capable of great empathy and compassion. The good guys are all breaking the law. The violence of what Nadia does for a living is contrasted with the picture of her relaxing among friends and lovers.

The story resolves itself but Nadia remains a hitman and her relationships with the men in her life remain “unresolved”, setting up the final book in the trilogy, “Wild Justice”.

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