Playing with Fire by Cris and Clare Meyers
Ping. I have a message. It’s from an Indie author I’ve become chummy with on social media recommending a book. A book called Playing with Fire by Cris and Clare Meyers. I thank her and place it on my “to be read” list.
A month goes by, maybe more and I’m searching my Kindle library for a new read. Playing with Fire by Cris and Clare Meyers catches my attention. My first thought is who the hell would do that? Co-write a book with their husband. My second thought is how are they still married? My husband and I can’t even agree on takeout pizza forget about writing a book together. We’d be divorced… with restraining orders. I was intrigued by this concept, the twosome thing. I poured myself a glass of wine and another, and another. I ignored lunch, dinner, family, laundry until the bottle was dry and I was sitting alone in the dark, my iPad the only source of light in the house I neglected all day. I laughed out loud, mouthed the words “what the fuck” and let out the breath I was holding since noon. That my friend is the type of story we are talking about.
This book (and series) is so good; I want to tell the world. I want you to read it so I can say “I told you so”. I want to knock on the door of Netflix and beg them to make a series called Criminal Elements so I can binge on it.
Wow. Now that I’ve spent half the review admitting to my excess drinking and sounding like a 14-year-old groupie, let’s get to the story.
Let’s start with the Frenchie, Renee Devereaux; a bad ass bundle of ambiguity. She’s Talented. No, not like America’s Got Talent talented, more like “piss me off and I’ll fuck you up” talented. To be Talented, in the world created by the couple who plays nice, means you have magical “kick you into next Tuesday” powers. Renee is Talented but just how talented… that she keeps to herself.
Also a Talent, and easy on the eyes, is Stone Anders. Unlike Renee, he makes it clear what his talent is right out of the gate, he blows shit up. Like Renee, he makes a living thieving. And when I say thieving, I’m talking Ocean’s Eleven type heists and payouts with Pulp Fiction fury. A Royale with cheese.
Stone is a former hitman, assassin, Longshot, marine… he’s a lot of things, a lot of violent things and the authors let Stone be the man he is. They don’t water him down like authors often do, concerning themselves with reader “sensitivities”. Stone is a stone. Balls to the wall bad.
Stone’s plan to eliminate the man trying to kill him—
“…putting a stop to him, preferably with violence. This wasn’t a ‘use your words’ kind of situation. Unless ‘use your words’ meant beating him to death with a dictionary.”
The courtship between Renee and Stone begins in Russia. It starts with a “you carrying” curiosity and slowly morphs into a “you show me yours, I’ll show you mine” flirtation but before they can sort out exactly what heat the other is packing, the job goes south and they spend the rest of their time together trying not to die. That’s the thing about dying; it can really mess up the moment.
Call it fate or a big payout or revenge, whatever the reason, Stone and Renee find themselves on the same job in Vienna and then again in Florence where Stone’s epic battle against a hit on his own life nearly kills him and Renee’s nursing him back to health turns their co-worker status into a full blown office romance.
Then Seattle happens…
In Seattle we meet Rook. Whereas most people would hate Rook, I of course love him. I have a habit of embracing the character awarded “most likely to make you want to punch in the face” and the winner is—the smart-ass, shape-shifter were-crow. Rook is annoying, cocksure and cawing, rambunctious and rude, but he’s loveable, if that makes any sense. The Seattle team also consists of a Talent named Carlos, shape-shifter coyote and Grace, a Talented shape-shifter, con-woman cat.
Renee and Stone are here for revenge. Revenge on Marcus Issacs, the man who backstabbed them in Moscow. Once Rook reveals the money of the operation, they almost back out but their need for revenge supersedes their better judgement. The money, Victoria Reid is a Talented mob boss of sorts, running the East Coast of the US like the Godfather of the Talented.
The job from the get-go is flawed and working for a crime boss is always questionable but Vic is serving Issacs for dinner and revenge is a dish that tastes best when served cold. In addition to the Corleone conundrum, Stone and Renee are working with a team of misfits with Rook as Captain Chaos. His plan is half-ass, he’s a hot head and he’s hiding shit. Not to mention that it’s the first time off the bench for Carlos and Grace missed tryouts. Or did she?
“…people with guns, a lot of blind corners, and the ever-present possibility of taking a bullet. Three things that did not make for a pleasant evening.”
You can say that again. The Seattle job, well let’s just say things could have gone better.
Playing with Fire ends with the Seattle debacle and you immediately want to read book two, Fly by Night. Which I did, in two days, resulting in more wine and neglected obligations.
Yes, I sound a bit obsessed and yes, I should probably get a life but the Criminal Elements series by Cris and Clare Meyers is perfection. It’s raw. It’s real. They hold nothing back: crime, love, violence, addiction, sexuality, magic and whole shitload of ass kicking. Read this book. I dare you not to like it. I dare you not to immediately read Rook’s story, Fly by Night. If you don’t like these books, you need to take a serious look at your deficiencies. Ponder your existence on this planet the next time you are comparing sale prices at the supermarket and I hope you consider tossing your deli ticket and removing yourself from the line, permanently. The human race does not need another moron who doesn’t know TALENT when they see it waiting for a pound of bologna.
Playing with Fire burns with TALENT and the Criminal Elements series is on fire.
Buy this book at Amazon.