Publisher: Bella Books
Shay Cooper was good at her job. As an FBI agent she broke criminals—until they broke her.
Recovery seems unlikely until her mentor proposes she return to work at the training academy near her hometown of Chicago. Life in slow lane definitely appeals, but her contentment lasts only until she meets the academy’s biggest challenge: Agent Kate Harris.
Kate Harris has made her mistakes and carries her own secrets. Her former partner—a brilliant profiler and author of crime thrillers blockbusters—has disappeared. She’s determined to find him, orders for more training be damned. The horror she uncovers collides with Shay’s own nightmarish past. The only thing they agree on is that they can’t trust anyone, not even each other.
Sara Marx (Before I Died, In Sight of the Seer) returns with an unforgettable thriller teeming with the risks of passion and love.
[Originally posted on Amazon 1/9/12]
Decoded by Sara Marx was a huge disappointment.
This was a real reading slog and I almost quit a few times. I did finally make it to the end and the one thing Marx did well was responsible for that. She had an excellent story idea and she was just mysterious enough in how and when she handed out info to keep me wanting to find out more and find out if my deductions were correct. It’s really a shame that the writing and FBI details didn’t live up to the promise of the story.
Here are a few of the (many) issues that gave me problems.
* Logic holes and poor story research:
Kate is still using her missing partner’s desk, even though she’s moved offices twice since then.
DNA results were obtained in only a few hours.
Misunderstanding of caliber in regards to guns.
All of the FBI stuff seemed sloppily put together and not based on reality.
* Odd sentences or descriptions, and words used inappropriately or incorrectly:
“Words, words, words…” she nattered, annoyance in her voice. – She wasn’t nattering, it was a serious conversation.
The description “mermaid hair” was used at least four times. Maybe I’m out of touch, but that doesn’t mean anything to me.
Pregnancy didn’t bode with her jet-set lifestyle.
It was hard to believe she actually missed her partner’s foul mood and incessant nagging – This came after it’s been explained more than once that Kate only spoke when necessary.
* A “writer’s tick” where “dipped” is used over and over and over again, and not as a peculiar quirk of one character, several do it. (These are just some of the instances):
She dipped her head apologetically.
Shay dipped her chin
Kate emphasized it, dipped her head
The tech dipped her head
* Head hopping:
In one telephone conversation POV shifted four times in the span of a few paragraphs.
There are additional specific issues that bugged the heck out of me while reading, but the above are enough to list here.
More generally, the characters were flat, with little depth. Shay was the only one with even minimal development.
The romance was forced, going from not liking and trusting each other to love with no real transition, other than being told repeatedly that Shay was (painfully!) attracted to Kate. I enjoy a good sex scene, but in Decoded I had to skim because it felt ridiculous and not the least sexy.
The end seemed rushed and flat. I can’t even call it anti-climactic because the build-up to it never felt suspenseful.
One reason that I was really disappointed by Decoded is because Katherine V. Forrest is listed as the editor. I’ve come to expect good to exceptional work from her, both as an author and an editor. I haven’t been let down like this in other books I’ve read that she’s edited. Normally I take it as a sign it will be a better than average book, so I dunno what happened here.
Many readers easily pass over the things I’ve noted as being objectively problematic, and the subjective issues are just that, a matter of taste. So I’m not going to say no one can enjoy this book. I will say that, unless you’ve run out of lesbian reading material, you can find much better.
KINDLE NOTE: I purchased the .mobi ebook directly from the Bella Books site. It’s formatted simply, but with no glaring issues. Except possibly one, but I can’t know without looking at a paper edition. There are no blank lines between POV/time/place shifts and I don’t know if that’s how the writer intended it (if so, add that as another “bugged the heck out of me” thing), or if they were skipped during ebook formatting.