Reckless by Allison Brennan is a Lucy Kincaid novella that takes place after the events of the fifth book in the series, Stalked, which sees a romantic camping trip devolve into a search for a missing boy.
In addition to the popular series novels that feature Lucy Kincaid as both a leading lady and a peripheral character, New York Times bestseller Allison Brennan has revisited her in a few shorter works. Reckless (2013) is a novella that takes place after the events of the full-length novel, Stalked (2012), though its story stands alone.
Reckless finds FBI trainee Lucy Kincaid—who made it her mission to join the academy after surviving a sexual assault and attempted murder (2007’s Fear No Evil)—and private investigator Sean Rogan settling into the woods for a spontaneous weekend getaway. Lucy hasn’t been camping since her month-older nephew and childhood best friend, Justin, was killed eighteen years ago. Still, she’s looking forward to some rare alone time with boyfriend—an oft intended refuge from the darkness of their work that is inevitably interrupted by the murderous mayhem that punctuates Brennan’s books.
Not surprisingly, then, the couple’s first romantic overtures are disturbed by the sounds of an argument. Despite what they had hoped would be an isolated spot to pitch their tent—one without the inherent distractions of cell service—it becomes apparent that at least two others are sharing the same general space, and that theirs is not a harmonious union. Wanting to make their presence known and claim their territory, Lucy and Sean follow the voices and come upon a pair of hikers; the female promptly pulls a gun on them and demands, “Who the hell are you?”
After Lucy and Sean diffuse the situation and introduce themselves, the others begrudgingly reciprocate. Upon questioning, Ann and Jeff admit that their nine-year-old son, Micah, has been missing since approximately 6 a.m. that morning. It’s just after noon now, and their relative nonchalance about his disappearance is cause for suspicion; though his parents insist that Micah simply wondered off and will return of his own accord, Lucy and Sean feel compelled to join the search. Reluctantly, Ann and Jeff agree, and the four pair off—the women to return to the parking area and call for reinforcements and the men to continue scouring the vicinity.
This separation coupled with the complete lack of communicative means gives them pause. Still, Lucy and Sean see no better option. After all, a kid’s life is at stake, and they are trained investigators (and partners) who have learned to trust each other’s instincts and abilities.
Before making it back to the outskirts to summon help, the women find Micah. He’s a dynamo of a kid with a fierce sense of loyalty, and his startling revelations confirm Lucy’s sense of unease. (He also awakens her maternal instincts.) To go into specifics would spoil the story, but it can be said that little is as it appears—and nobody is safe. What’s really going on in the woods is a highly combustible operation, and one that’s still very much reflective of the times despite the passage of years since publication.
Reckless tallies about a quarter the length of one of the author’s novels. Consequently, the depth of character and plot is proportionally truncated. However, the narrative works for its intended purpose—particularly the isolated setting, which enhances the overall sense of danger. Further, Brennan is able to have a bit of fun with her protagonists’ perpetually tortured love life while also using their separation to maximize emotional tension. Overall, it’s a well-crafted, action-heavy short that makes for easy summer reading. Just don’t bring it on your next camping trip…
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John Valeri wrote the popular Hartford Books Examiner column for Examiner.com from 2009 – 2016. He can be found online at www.johnbvaleri.com and is featured in the Halloween-themed anthology Tricks and Treats, now available from Books & Boos Press.