‘A Sense Of Danger’ – Section 47 #1 by Jennifer Estep – abandoned at 38% – fun but not my kind of fun.

A spy…

My name is Charlotte Locke, and I’m an analyst for Section 47, a secret government agency that tracks terrorists, criminals, and other paramortal bad guys who want to unleash their abilities on an unsuspecting mortal world. I have a magical form of synesthesia that senses danger and uncovers lies – making me a stealthy operative. 

I’m trudging through another day when one of Section’s cleaners – assassins – takes an interest in me. I don’t need my synesthesia to realize that he is extremely dangerous and that he will do anything to achieve his goals – even if it means putting me in the line of fire.

…and an assassin 

I’m Desmond Percy, one of Section 47’s most lethal cleaners. I’m also a man on a mission, and I need Charlotte Locke’s skills to help me keep a promise, settle a score, and kill some extremely bad people. 

Charlotte might not like me, but we’re stuck together until my mission is over. Still, the more time we spend together, the more I’m drawn to her. But at Section 47, you never know who you can trust – or who might want you dead.

I can see that this book is fun in the same way that I can see that watching a match in a sports bar or dancing at a rave or driving a racing car is fun, but like them, it’s not my kind of fun.

What makes it fun?

Well, the idea of Section 47, a secret US government organisation set up to carry out covert, extrajudicial killings of paranormals around the world judged by the US to be terrorists, has legs. Telling the story by alternating between the viewpoint of the analyst and the assassin added energy and humour and built up the suspense around what each of them is yet to discover about the other. The plot is motivated by personal revenge, concealed behind a mission to protect the world from an evil creator and broker of paranormal weapons. Things are complicated by the initial antagonism between the analyst and assassin who needs her to carry out his revenge and by the presence of a traitor somewhere in Section 47 There’s a fair amount of violence. I’m 38% through and haven’t reached the first set-piece covert op yet and already I have four people killed in close combat and one flashback death scene following an IED explosion. The people are pretty and the dialogue and interior monologues are full of snark.

Why isn’t it my kind of fun?

I remain too stubbornly serious to let myself enjoy this book the way I can see that it’s meant to be enjoyed.

The main characters are unrelentingly attractive. This attractiveness is described in detail. I know this should be helping me slide into a Will they? Won’t they? or, more likely, a When will they? And will they regret it? sexual tension thing but it just has me rolling my eyes and wondering why there are no paranormals who look just like everyone else? Wouldn’t that be an advantage in an Assassin? Do you really want to be giving off a tall, dark and dangerous vibe when you’re carrying out a covert op?

As for the sexual attraction thing, I don’t buy it. These guys are in their thirties. They kill people for a living. They have major life challenges in front of them. And they let themselves get distracted by how sexy someone’s eyes are or how tightly built their bodies are? Haven’t they grown out of that stuff yet?

Then there’s the politics. The book doesn’t have any,.but my nature abhors a political vacuum so, as I listen to the two insiders disclose their experience of working in Section 47, I get distracted from the clothes and the sexy people in them and the powers that they have by wondering what it means that neither of them doubts for a moment the right of Section 47 to kill on command. That that is taken for granted is one of the scariest things in the book. The analyst is supposed to be very good at spotting patterns. She tells me that only 1% of the population are paranormals but she never questions how it came to be that the US government has somehow leashed a whole bunch of paranormals and turned them into lethal attack dogs to use against other paranormals. The assassin and the analyst are both ‘Legacy’ members of Section 47, meaning that they were guaranteed a job because previous generations of their family served in Section 47. Neither of them questions this nor recognises it as nepotism nor reflects on how nepotism distorts the culture of an organisation over time.

I can see that enjoying the book hangs on liking the two main characters and cheering them on both in defeating the bad guys and in getting together as a couple or, at least, wanting to get together as a couple. I don’t like the assassin. He’s manipulative. Dishonest with himself and others. He kills without compunction or remorse. He uses honesty and intimacy as currency to buy compliance. He masks his rage-driven need to kill behind a mawkishly sentimental memory of the death of a friend without admitting to himself that he’s mostly motivated by the damage to his self-image that he sustained when he couldn’t prevent his friend from dying. Not an easy guy for me to cheer for.

So this book is not for me but…

…if you want a paranormal thriller about a sexy revenge-driven assassin and a sexy not-ready-to-trust-anyone analyst going up against violent paranormal super-villains while having a traitor in their ranks, you should have a lot of fun with this one.

Meanwhile, I’ll go back to being the only guy in the sports bar sitting alone, listening to my audiobook through my noise-cancelling headphones as I sip my Guinness.

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