For me, the appeal of this series comes from an inversion of the normal assumptions in crime novels. In most books, Nadia Stafford would be the villain, not the hero. She kills people for money. I ought not to like her. Yet, over the course of the three books, I constantly found myself wanting her to succeed.
In the first book, “Exit Strategy”, I liked Nadia because she was smart and brave and had personal integrity but I didn’t really get inside her head. I actively disliked Jack, her laconic, emotionally withdrawn mentor.
In the second book “Made To Be Broken” I got to see the world more from Nadia’s point of view. I understood how the interaction between the traumas in her past and her personality, led her to lead a double life and set up the conflict between being a loyal, brave person who runs a Nature Lodge in the woods and being a killer for hire. I still couldn’t quite reconcile the person I liked with the job that she chose to do.
In “Wild Justice” Kelley Armstrong turns her whole focus onto who Nadia Stafford is and why she is that way. The themes are deeper and the writing more self-assured than in “Exit Strategy”. “Exit Strategy” read like an “I-wonder-what-it-would-be-like-to-write-a-thriller-with-no-paranormal-content” experiment on the edges of what Kelley Armstrong had written up to then. “Wild Justice” is in the heart of what Kelley Armstrong excels at: giving insights into strong, sometimes violent, women and making them real.
The story is woven from three main threads: discovering what REALLY happened to Nadia when she was thirteen and she and her cousin were abducted and her cousin was killed, responding to a hit being taken out on Nadia and resolving Nadia’s relationship with the two men in her life, Quinn a US Marshall with a side-line in vigilante justice and Jack, Nadia’s laconic and apparently emotionally crippled mentor.
The story is well plotted, with lots of tension, a great deal of action and violence and more than a few surprises along the way.The writing is tight and the dialog is perfect. What lifts the book and makes it one of my favourites from Kelley Armstrong, is Nadia’s journey into her own past, how it makes her confront her present and finally gives her the ability to craft a future.
It’s a great read. It keeps the pages turning and at the end, it gives a gratifying sense of closure.