A 20 Year Old Cold Target? Review of “Hot Target” by Marliss Melton

A Little Intrigue and a Little Romance

Anyone who reads my book review blog ReadMyLips knows I’m a sucker for a good Navy SEAL yarn so I got comfy and settled in to read “Hot Target” by Marliss Melton. Well. Where to begin? How ‘bout the dual protagonists, Navy SEAL Tristan Halliday and PI Juliet Rhodes who continue their on again, off again relationship that began on a cruise to Belize sometime in the past. Tristan is a charmer and of course handsome. Juliet is fighting her attraction to him because she doesn’t want to risk losing her heart to a man whose job puts him in constant danger. (Eye roll here.) BUT she needs his help to track down the man she believes responsible for her parents deaths when she was 16. Having blocked out her memory of seeing him look into the car as her father took his last breaths, many years later she has a dream in which she sees this man clearly enough for a police sketch artist to render a good likeness of him. Oh really? Okay, I’ll suspend reality and go along for the ride. So they have a face but now they need a name to go with it. Do you see where this is going? One unlikely scenario after the other and coincidence piled on top for good measure until you want to shout BS! We get into a long, involved plot that pegs the killer as a war criminal who her dead mother had worked for as an East German spy (more eye rolls) and it goes downhill from there.

The plot premise is so far-fetched as to stretch the most imaginative of minds and the dialogue is borderline sophomoric at best. Tristan as a Navy SEAL is cluelessly unaware of his surroundings most of the time and Juliet is equally incompetent when it comes to being a real private investigator. It’s a good thing her bread and butter divorce cases keep her afloat so she can pay the rent on her office ‘cuz her skill set is mostly nonexistent.

Seriously, considering the author’s background my expectations might’ve been set a tad too high because the writing lacks authenticity and I couldn’t muster up even an inkling of a connection to either of the main characters. The minor characters, Hillary and Hatch were more interesting and somewhat more believable. Sadly, that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for this fourth book in The Echo Platoon Series. I’d already downloaded Book five but I don’t think I’m gonna’ waste my time with it. The best I can do here is three stars.

What are the odds of finding a former war criminal in SF? I don’t think I’d risk my next paycheck on it but Juliet and Tristan have uncanny good luck, although as a reader you’ll need to believe in the impossible in order to get past the too clever and convenient coincidences required to accomplish this feat. The plot premise already stretches the probabilities beyond reasonable and complications keep piling on until I’m ready to call BS! It seems the man in question is/was an East German war criminal and Juliet’s mother worked for him as a spy. So 20 odd years later he carefully plans and executes an auto “accident” to eliminate her. Are you still with me? Is this even plausible or is it just too much to swallow? Yeah, for me too.

Plot lines aside, the characters don’t generate much warmth or compassion. Tristan is the more likable of the two but that’s not a ringing endorsement and as a Navy SEAL he’s woefully unaware of his surroundings. Juliet as a private investigator seems to be in over her head except when doing surveillance on divorce cases, which keeps her in business and pays the rent. The storyline plods along for the most part and goes off on a tangent here and there in Tristan’s search for his birth parents which could’ve been eliminated and no one would even have noticed. The dialogue is occasionally witty and humorous but all too frequently it’s borderline sophomoric.

This is Book four of The Echo Platoon Series and I’d already downloaded Book five but I’m not sure I want to waste my time on it. The best I can do on this one is three stars.

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