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Fish & Chips
Abigail Roux, Madeleine Urban
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Sidewinder #2, NOT Cut & Run #8

Ball & Chain  - Abigail Roux

This book is NOT Cut & Run #8, it's Sidewinder #2, so the labeling is deceptive marketing. Read as a continuation of Nick and Kelly's story from Shock & Awe, this book works nicely, but Ty and Zane are secondary characters. Actually, even Kelly is a secondary character in this book. It's really Nick's story, and I enjoyed it as such.


However, I really missed Ty and Zane. Zane in particular was almost invisible in this book, as Ty at least played a significant role as Nick's Best Friend. In fact, Zane was so diminished in this book, the physical descriptions of him made me question my memory of him as 6'6" to Ty's 6'3".


Sure, Zane was described as having more lean muscle, like a swimmer or runner, so I could believe plenty of other guys are broader and beefier than he. But there was so much emphasis on how BIG one of the Snake Eaters was, apparently so much bigger than anyone else around. Was Mr. English seven or eight feet tall? Even a lean 6'6" man tends to be noticeably larger than the majority of people around him, unless he's on a basketball court.


Another difficulty I had with the (too minimal) Ty and Zane storyline was that while I thought Zane was absolutely right that he and Ty needed to get to know each other again, and so turning down Ty's proposals made sense, in the end he accepted without that having happened. Ty finally made the right "big gesture" and Zane's good intentions and common sense vanished. It made it possible for this book to end with them planning to get married, without having done the work necessary to make that an appropriate place to be. Nick and Kelly's proposal and marriage plans actually made more sense. That didn't make me a happy camper.


In fact, overall it seemed like content editing was completely absent from this book. I have to wonder what happened to all the beta readers and editors who presumably edited it. Were they all high when they read it? The very first few pages, we're told over and over (and OVER) again how Ty was the only man Zane really wanted to see. No shit, Sherlock. We could've figured that out for ourselves without being told once, let alone fifty times. And the "ball & chain" metaphor was so over-used throughout the book, I started huffing and smirking myself at each new mention of it.


And while I read the Cut & Run books expecting a fun romp - which this was - rather than realism, this was one of the most ridiculous mysteries ever and there were a number of things that really bugged me. The "big reveal" was so over the top and convoluted, I just shrugged and was glad I hadn't been too invested in it. I was glad that at least it turned out to be based on Zane and the cartel, and I look forward to seeing where that goes.


But Zane and Ty had so little reaction to that information, it was like they'd been body-snatched and replaced with clones. The Zane of old would have gone on a mad rampage or something upon learning something like that. And Ty would have restrained him, even while completely understanding and agreeing with him, and then maybe distracted him with sex. But in this book, they barely batted an eye and the story rolled along to give us MOAR NICK.


Plus there was the implication that someone had actually accessed Zane's computer. Not just turned it on and got frustrated by their inability to get past his password, but apparently actually logged in. No. Nope. Nyet. Nein. There is NO WAY Zane doesn't have both password protection and encryption on his laptop. How do I know? Because I do, and I'm pretty sure Zane is even more aware of and paranoid about such things than I am.


I bet Zane even has autorun turned off, so the flash drive wouldn't have been able to spread its malware automatically. I wouldn't be surprised if he had a dummy partition for the operating system and another, hidden one for his real stuff. And maybe a few more hacks that I'm not savvy enough to think of. In other words, that entire plot point read like complete and utter bullshit. And it was pretty pointless, so why even bother to include it?


There was also a big deal about Milton's watch having stopped at a particular time. They ultimately concluded he set the time himself, to give them the information. However, the watch wasn't smashed until hours after his death. There's no way he could've known when he died that someone would smash his watch later. It's unlikely he even had a chance to tinker with it right before he died. So how/when did he know to set it like that and how did he get the watch to stop at the particular time he set it for, when that is apparently not a functionality built into it?


And why was it so difficult for Ty and Zane to figure out that the mole they'd been looking for was likely the person framing Burns? And that this person's ability to do so, and do it so well, probably gave some significant clues as to who the mole must be. I assume that will be dealt with in the next book, but it seemed bizarre to me that they didn't at least speculate on that.


I also would have liked some explanation as to why Nick had such a bad feeling about Burns way back when. If Burns had turned out to be a bad guy, it'd make sense. But my understanding is that Nick has a well-honed and trust-worthy gut, so if Burns is actually who he seemed to be, why did Nick's gut give him a false impression?


Lastly, it's a big pet peeve of mine when books set up sequel-bait at the end. And this one did that in a big way with the reappearance of Liam Bell. Clearly, he's going to be significant in Sidewinder #2 and/or Cut & Run #9, and this was set up as a teaser to make us want to read it. Unfortunately, obvious setups like that don't make me more eager to read the next book, they just cause me to finish the current one with a lot of eye-rolling.


And those are all issues I have with the book even reading it as Nick's book; don't even get me started on the issues I have with THAT when this is marketed as Cut & Run #8. But with appropriate expectations and suspension of disbelief and logic, it was still quite enjoyable.


ETA: It just clicked, I just figured out what the mystery reminded me of: Scooby Doo!