Author: Abigail Roux
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Rating: 4 stars
Type: Novel in a Series
Received from Publisher
Blurb: Nick O’Flaherty and Kelly Abbott had their happy ending in sight when a friend’s call for help almost ended with them losing it to the blade of a knife. Now, in the aftermath of near-disaster, both men are trying to heal and move on.
Review: Sidewinder is off balance. The whole team has a lot of figurative and literal healing to do. The reality is Sidewinder hasn’t been a happy and functional team since they were broken up by the Corps and shunted into different jobs. The murder of Eli Sanchez was another open wound that had merely been patched up and not allowed to heal. While Nick is trying to heal from his very real wounds from his misadventures in Miami, he’s trying to figure out what is wrong with his relationship with Kelly. Kelly shifted into caretaker mode as opposed to boyfriend. Nick finds himself going stir crazy and delves into the box of Eli’s personal belongings he was given after his funeral. Because when your life is half fallen apart opening a big can of worms seems like a great idea? The contents of the box trigger an odyssey, of sorts. Sidewinder is just trying to find its way home to the ones they love.
Grief sucks, that’s why one of the stages of it is denial. Sidewinder denied its grief for a long, unhealthy time. Sidewinder was treated unfairly by the very government they swore to uphold and defend then had one of their own stolen from them by violent crime. Repression is all fine and dandy when you’ve got a drug cartel and a mole within the FBI to bring down, but now that Nick and Sidewinder have all their pressing matters out of the way it’s time to heal. Consequently, this book has a feeling of having traveled full circle. We first learned of Sidewinder with the death of Eli Sanchez. It’s Eli Sanchez that helps them heal.
As much as this was a Nick and Kelly book this was a Sidewinder book. They, uh, go part and parcel with each other. Nick and Kelly had some stuff to work out. Stuff that went way back. Sidewinder stuff. Another big aspect of this book is returning vets dealing with the things they’ve done and witnessed their best friends do. PTSD goes… hand in hand with war. I really liked we got to see the full trajectory of service members lives after their service. I like that I got to see them break down and whine as much as I got to see them shoot the bad guys in previous books.
Okay, so this book wasn’t actually depressing AF. This is Sidewinder after all. There is Emu oil, leprechaun hats, and haunted phones. And really, this book is about healing. That’s Eli’s whole goal. At times that goal felt a bit like a MacGuffin, to me. Every plot needs a MacGuffin but I don’t want to spot them so clearly. Eli had to tell Sidewinder, and consequently the reader, that Nick was the heart of the team. There was constant confirmation of Nick’s need to provide for people what he never had while asking for nothing in return. Even Ty’s cats got involved. While Sidewinder went on their journey Kelly had to figure out what had him so upset. I’m not sure I like how that was resolved, but they got what they wanted so I’m good with it in the long run.
This book had its funny moments though it wasn’t the action packed and suspense filled drama the previous books featuring any of these characters have been. It was imperfect, but more real in its treatment of vets adjusting to life after service. Most importantly, these guys get to be Sidewinder again without secrets, ghosts, and resentments at the table with them.