Tue
Aug 8 2017 12:00pm

Review: Compulsion by Allison Brennan

Compulsion by Allison Brennan is the second book in the Max Revere series.

Max Revere is back, and I could not be happier! Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Allison Brennan’s Lucy Kincaid novels as well, but there’s something about Max that’s so bracing that coming back to her is like hanging out with that one friend who will tell it to you like it is because she genuinely cares. And that’s pretty much Max to a T: she believes in honesty because, in the long run, it’s the kindest way of life. Not a brutal honesty necessarily, and one needn’t share every little detail unless asked, but she firmly believes that lies cause more harm than good in the end.

It’s this drive to uncover the truth that pushes her into uncomfortable and sometimes downright dangerous situations. Compulsion not only chronicles a period of such situations but also digs deep into Max’s background to explore why this is so important to her:

[Her ex] had told her time and time again that curiosity killed the cat. She'd meow at him mostly to annoy him, but he'd been right more often than not. But did that mean she should just sit back and do nothing when she could do something? She didn't regret the choices she'd made. She didn't believe in living with regrets. So much of her life had been because of the past—what her mother had done, what her friends had done, the cold cases she was drawn to. The past ruled her. Drove her. But she still didn't regret her decisions. How could she? She'd helped people, hadn't she?

It’s in the interest of helping people that she arranges to interview Adam Bachman—a man on trial for the murder of five people—for her cold case TV show, Maximum Exposure. She strongly believes that he’s guilty of killing more than just five, but the prosecuting district attorney doesn’t want to hear it, especially since Max’s theory involves Adam having a partner. The DA has a rock-solid case now and doesn’t want to give the defense the reasonable doubt that the introduction of a partner might give them.

This, of course, drives Max crazy. Her thirst for the truth regardless, she’s determined to find closure for the Pantalozzo family, whose parents went missing in a case she’s sure is connected to Bachman.

To this end, she applies pressure to her contacts in the police department and unwittingly inspires her latest assistant—the talented but headstrong Riley Butler—to risk her life going undercover. But the greatest danger is to Max herself, as a deadly plot masterminded by a cunning sociopath rolls out to ensnare her and nearly everyone she loves.

Compulsion reveals fascinating pieces of Max’s background in a way that satisfies while still leaving you wanting more. Her life with her mother is delved into as well as her relationship with the man she was led to believe was her father. But the book also looks at Max’s current relationships, especially after she looks death in the face once more and realizes that she’s never really told her best friend how she feels about him:

She felt the tears in the back of her eyes, but she didn't want to cry. She took a deep breath. “You're my rock, David. I've never loved anyone. I realize that now—I didn't think I was capable of it. I'm self-absorbed. I'm selfish. I'm independent. I love my family, but even that love is marginally conditional. It shouldn't be. I wish I was more trusting, less selfish, more ... I don't know, open.

“I love you. I need you to know that. We're friends, but you're more family to me than I've ever had. When I thought I might die, the one thing I thought about, that I regretted, was that you would suffer for not knowing. That I knew you'd blame yourself, when you are blameless. I couldn't stand thinking about what you would go through. And knowing I'd never told you how I felt.”

It’s really, really nice to see a platonic friendship between a man and a woman celebrated this way. Sure, David started out as her bodyguard, and the two had a pretty contentious relationship to begin with, but their bond is strong and convincing while being not at all stereotypical. I’m so excited to read more of their friendship as well as discover more of Max’s past. I cannot wait to discover what the deal is with her mom, especially. But most of all, I’m looking forward to spending time with a main character whose drive and goodness—and total badassness—make her the kind of heroine I’d like to be. Or, at the very least, read more of.
 

Listen to an audio excerpt from Compulsion!

 

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Doreen Sheridan is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C. She microblogs on Twitter @dvaleris.

Read all posts by Doreen Sheridan for Criminal Element.

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