Black Widow (Elemental Assassin #12)

blackwidowAuthor: Jennifer Estep

Publisher: Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books

Rating: 5 stars

Buy links: Author Page

Type: Novel in Series

Received from Publisher


Blurb: Lethal, sexy, and always ready to protect her friends, Gin Blanco (a.k.a. the Spider) takes on the mysterious M.M. Monroe in book twelve of the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series.

There’s nothing worse than a cruel, cunning enemy with time to kill—and my murder to plan. With wicked Fire elemental Mab Monroe long gone, you’d think I could finally catch a break. But someone’s always trying to take me down, either as Gin Blanco or my assassin alter-ago. Now along comes the Spider’s new arch-nemesis, the mysteriously named M. M. Monroe, who is gleefully working overtime to trap me in a sticky web of deceit.

The thing is, I’m not the only target. I can see through the tangled threads enough to know that every bit of bad luck my friends have been having lately is no accident—and that each unfortunate “coincidence” is just one more arrow drawing ever closer to hitting the real bull’s-eye. Though new to Ashland, this M. M. Monroe is no stranger to irony, trying to get me, an assassin, framed for murder. Yet, as my enemy’s master plan is slowly revealed, I have a sinking feeling that it will take more than my powerful Ice and Stone magic to stop my whole life from going up in flames.


Review:  This is the twelfth installment in the ever popular Elemental Assassins series by Jennifer Estep; and in my opinion, these books just seem to grow in depth and character. The emotional intensity pairs with superb character development to land a one-two punch to the senses, leaving you wide open to the following explosive events that drop like nuclear bombs…one…two…BOOM.

Gin is slowly recuperating and getting used to a particularly unsettling peace after offing Southtown’s repulsive drug pin mastermind Beauregard Benson. But peace of mind is hard to keep when an immaculately-attired Madeline Magda Monroe is always lurking with giant bodyguard Emery Slater in tow. She’s arrived in town to take over her mother Mab’s empire with the help of lawyer Jonah McAllister. Mab Monroe was the evil fire elemental who ruled over the crime lords of Ashland, killing legions–including Gin’s family and her mentor Fletcher Lane.

Until Gin killed her.

But Madeline Magda Monroe has an appreciably larger agenda in place. It seems that her devious plan is much more subtle and made to play across a  considerably grander stage than any other challenger Gin’s met so far. You see, Madeline has discovered that the one key to taking out the Spider, aka Gin Blanco, lies in first systematically destroying or handicapping everyone she loves. And then, when Gin’s alone without help, to just keep coming until she goes down… that one last time.

But that’s where Gin has always been underestimated… to everyone’s peril. Villains think she’s gone, she’s quit, she’s defeated. But it’s when the odds are against her that our girl shines. Who else but someone with nothing to lose will continue to fight? If you don’t care if you make it out alive but you DO care that your opponent doesn’t, then you’ve already got the upper hand.

As Gin watches from the sidelines, Madeline ingratiates herself with both the upper-crust Northtown snobs and the low-life Ashland crime lords by spreading her inherited ill-gotten gains across the cities in charitable endeavors far and wide. A library here, a park there, all in the illustrious name of Monroe–ostensibly for her mother, but not really. Feeding Madeline’s own ego is the name of the game–all under the guise of honoring dear dead mom. Gin attends each and every event, a little thorn in M.M.’s side.

One sunny October day at noon, Gin and stepbrother Finnegan Lane attend the opening of the Monroe Memorial Park in Northtown, a very familiar battleground for Gin. Normally Madeline ignores her at these events; however, strangely, this day she approaches Gin. After exchanging their usual barbs, Madeline turns to leave, remarking that she needs to prepare for the library event at 3 o’clock. Gin responds that she’ll see her there to which Madeline replies, it isn’t likely. Odd? Yes.

Uneasiness starts to flare as subsequently throughout the early afternoon bad things begin to happen for Gin’s friends. It starts out with a liquor distributor giving Roslyn a hard time at her bar, Northern Aggression,  when Gin and Finn stop by for a drink after the park ribbon-cutting. They return to The Pork Pitt, and as Gin starts serving up lunch with Sophia and Catalina, events begin to multiply along with the customers. Which include Madeline and her bodyguard Emery, who apparently stopped by for lunch and a show.

A sure-thing business deal for boyfriend Owen Grayson gets lost, stepbrother Finn gets served for mismanagement of funds, and Owen’s sister Eva Grayson gets suspended from the local community college–all within about thirty minutes. In the beginning Finn had told Gin she was just being paranoid–but they’re all paranoid now. When Captain Lou Dobson shows up at The Pork Pitt shortly after, it’s time for Madeline’s showstopper–and for the sigma to hit the fan. Captain Dobson is there to arrest Gin for murder; a conundrum for sure. She’s murdered lots of people in Ashland–who’s he there about?

We all know that there’s no way that Gin Blanco would survive the Ashland jail–not with all the cops on the take, and her with a bounty on her head. Talk about a sitting duck. And with the way Captain Dobson keeps glancing at Madeline Magda Monroe like a puppet on a chain, it’s doubtful Gin would even make it to the police station.

This is a situation that calls for a freezer full of frozen peas.

Jennifer Estep is an award-winning journalist and it shows in the consistent excellence of her writing. The story flows beautifully and the characterization and world-building are beyond flawless. This world becomes an intimate character as you cozy up to these people and make them your own. At times with this book I had to walk away….  in a very complimentary way, this was not a comfortable read for me. I am so familiar with the characters and feel like I’ve lived through so much with them that what hurts them… hurts me. What sets Estep’s work above all other urban fantasy and romantic suspense for me is the voice of Gin. Gin is funny. Gin is very self-deprecating, kind and honest. She has integrity. Gin is educated–mostly self-educated. Gin has taken untenable situations and worked through them with help and sometimes alone. She’s not a super hero. She gets lucky. But she sticks. She keeps going. And she deeply cares about those around her. And I keep on reading these books because I care about HER. And through her, those around her.

See if you can resist her.

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