Face Value by Ian Andrew is a crime thriller which introduces readers to the Wright and Tran series. It’s an intriguing novel with lots of action, driven by strong, believable female characters.
Kara Wright and Tien Tran are partners in a private investigation agency. They are also best friends who met whilst serving as part of a special ops’ team within the military. They both have their own skill set, Kara is more outgoing and handles the client side of the business whereas Tien is a technological whizz. Both characters however are tough, intelligent and not the kind of women you would want to cross. In fact the novel opens with Kara making short work of a would-be rapist in a quite spectacular fashion, involving little more than a red stiletto heeled shoe.
I have to confess that Andrew had me at the shoe but he kept my interest throughout with his well crafted mystery. The story begins when the adult children of Chris and Brenda Sterling recruit Kara and Tien to track their parents’ whereabouts. The problem is, to all intents and purposes, the Sterlings have simply taken off on a holiday to Florida. As the plot unfolds, however, it becomes increasingly apparent that this is not the case and Kara and Tien find themselves drawn into the murky world of a Russian criminal.
Andrew makes his novel even more exciting by structuring it so that Kara and Tien’s investigation is interspersed with the investigation of the police who are searching for the killer of the aforementioned would-be rapist. The two storylines collide dramatically towards the end in a very satisfying finale.
There is much to recommend this novel, not least the central characters themselves. Kara is no-nonsense and forthright with a sharp sense of humour and whilst Tien may be quieter and happy take a back seat, she is no less ballsy. We learn that her military career ended when she lost her hand during a daring rescue mission. A mission that saw her awarded the military cross for bravery.
The military is very much present in this book as Kara and Tien draw on the support of other former military personnel. They are presented as a tight network and Andrew captures the banter between them perfectly. The way the characters use jokes to counteract the danger make the relationships seem authentic.
My favourite thing about this novel is the way that Andrew allows women to shine in what is traditionally viewed as a man’s world. In addition to Kara and Tien there are lots of strong female characters making up both military and police roles. Even the toughest of the villains is a Russian woman called Emilia. It is telling that whilst interrogating her, Kara calls to mind a maxim from 1970s anti-terrorism training – “Kill the women fighters first for they are the most vicious, the most hard line, the least likely to surrender.”
The way in which Andrew chooses to conclude his novel places Kara and Tien in a position to move into a new and exciting direction in the future. He has set up his series very effectively with lots of likeable characters who I for one want to see more of. If you like action packed crime with a strong military flavour then you should give Face Value a try.