Blood and Fire
Blood and Fire is the latest installment by Shannon McKenna in the McCloud Brothers saga. Lily Paar, a young woman on the run from assassins, has one lead in her father’s death, a man named Bruno Ranieri. Six weeks after his apparent suicide, she makes her way to a diner in Portland, Oregon, where Ranieri is working temporarily for his aunt. Bruno is instantly attracted to Lily and before you can say “Would you like cream in your coffee,” they are discovered and attacked by the very killers that Lily has been running from. In addition to, or as a result of their recent escape with death, they embark on a steamy sexual relationship before setting off to find out who is after Lily and why. They seek out Bruno’s half-brother, Kevin McCloud, and his family in an attempt to uncover the answers.
Before he had been reduced to a suicidal junkie, Lily’s father had been a sought-after research physician in the field of in vitro fertilization techniques. But having turned to drugs and alcohol and after numerous suicide attempts, Lily eventually had no choice but to commit him to a mental hospital. Early in the story, he is murdered and Lily is told that he finally succeeded in taking his own life. Lily suspects that this is not the case, as her father hated the sight of blood and would never have killed himself by slitting his wrists. As Lily and Bruno begin to investigate, they discover that the killers who were sent to kill Lily share the same DNA as Bruno, a neat trick as Bruno was an only child whose mother was killed when he was twelve. They soon discover a nefarious plot that makes Dr. Mengele’s fertility experimentation look like a ninth-grade biology class.
The intense bond between Lily and Bruno seems an unlikely one. The relationship between the two feels rushed, and the reader might wonder if the author herself was rushing through it. The reader gets the sense that a few pieces were missing, which may help to explain why a man would agree to put his life on the line to help a woman with whom he’s only shared a slice of pie.
McKenna is a capable writer who possesses a solid writing style. The action sequences are fast and are supported by believable dialogue. Unfortunately, her prose is not enough to overcome the holes that exist in the plot. McKenna may have relied too heavily on the old formula of pitting two unlikely people against a brilliant but disturbed scientist intent on achieving his own twisted goals.
At 500 pages, I was hoping that this book would be a page turner, but was disappointed early on when I had to keep pushing myself to read it. McKenna has had success with previous stories featuring the McCloud brothers; unfortunately, they seem to have run their course and readers of the series may wish that she had ended the series sooner.