Narrated by Nicol Zanzarella
Cold Evidence is number six in Rachel Grant’s seven-book (so far) Evidence series of romantic suspense novels. I’ve yet to read or listen to every instalment, but those I’ve got to so far have proved to be immensely enjoyable, complex and action-packed stories featuring hot-as-hell heroes and feisty (in a good way) heroines who don’t take any crap. The romances are nicely steamy and well integrated into the main storylines, and for me, the balance between romance and suspense is just about perfect. Cold Evidence does feature some recurring characters but like all the books in the series, it can be enjoyed as a standalone – although there is a bit of a cliff-hanger at the end which leads into the next book, Poison Evidence. Don’t worry though, it’s more by way of a teaser; the suspense storyline and HEA are happily resolved, so you can safely listen to this without fear of frustration!
Underwater archaeologist Undine Gray is working on a project to salvage the USS Wrasse, an old US submarine that sank off the coast of Seattle during the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, taking a number of its former crewmembers with it; men who had served aboard her in World War Two and who had volunteered to take her to her final resting place, not knowing it would become theirs, too.
While down at the wreck with her diving partner, Yuri, Undine develops a problem with her oxygen tank and has no alternative but to ascend, which she does, leaving Yuri on the sea bed while she reaches the decompression point and waits until it is safe for her to break the surface. While she is waiting, however, a massive explosion destroys her boat, equipment and team mates, the shockwave cutting her adrift and leaving her seriously injured. She wakes up in hospital to the face of the one man she’d never expected to see again, Luke Sevick, a former colleague of her father’s and former Navy SEAL who now works for NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and who had been among the first to arrive at the scene of the accident.
Luke and Undine have a complicated history stretching back twelve years to when he was a protégé of her father’s and working alongside him at his marine biology institute. Luke is still incredibly bitter over the fact that a teenaged ‘lark’ of Undine’s cost him his job and his career, and even more angry at himself for the emotional turmoil he experiences on seeing her so badly injured. So when she approaches him some six weeks after the explosion, telling him she’s scared of getting back into the water and asking him to dive with her, his immediate reaction is to tell her, in no uncertain terms, where to go. But he can’t do it. He knows how much this means to her and what it must have cost her to have even considered the idea of approaching him, let along actually doing it – and he agrees, at the same time cursing himself for being the world’s biggest idiot.
They dive the next day, with Luke offering Undine support and guidance the whole of the way. On reaching the wreck, Undine notices signs that someone else has been digging at the site, which should hold no real significance for anyone other than historians and archaeologists. Gradually, they start to piece together a picture of espionage and betrayal that puts them both – and Undine in particular – squarely in the sights of a Ukranian fanatic seeking revenge for what he sees as the abandonment of his country by the West.
As has been the case throughout this series, the background to the story is incredibly well researched, and while it has its roots in an event that happened over half a century earlier, the inclusion of some of the political issues of today make it very relevant for the contemporary audience. This is one of the things I adore about Ms. Grant’s books – her stories are incredibly well-thought out and complex; whether she’s writing stories set in the US or, as in her new Flashpoint series, war-torn Africa, she interweaves her plotlines with intrigue and political issues that are both relevant and thought-provoking, and does it seamlessly so that there’s never the sense the listener is being subjected to an info dump or history lesson.
And while all that’s going on, she writes a very complicated and messy romantic relationship between Luke and Undine, both of whom are carrying large amounts of baggage as the result of their ill-advised relationship years ago. When we find out exactly what happened between them, there is no question Luke’s anger is perfectly justified; Undine deceived him in full knowledge of what she was doing and she is responsible for the fact that Luke lost everything he had been working towards. He’s still bitter and it’s not surprising that his initial reactions to her are hostile and that he is determined to have nothing more to do with her once he’s helped her to recover her confidence. Although of course, things don’t quite work out like that. Their gradual rapprochement is perfectly paced; the physical attraction that burned between them years ago has never gone out – if anything, it’s even stronger now – and I really enjoyed listening to them learning more about the people they are now and beginning to deal with the anger, guilt and grief over what happened between them before. They’re both likeable yet flawed characters; both are highly intelligent and dedicated to what they do, and while Luke is perhaps a bit too good to be true, he does at least work to maintain that hot bod of his – and I had to laugh at his mistaken idea that there is anything one can do to Brussels sprouts to make them taste good.
I was pleased to see that Nicol Zanzarella had returned to narrate this and Poison Evidence, as I’ve very much enjoyed her work in the earlier books in the series I’ve so far listened to. She has a pleasant, slightly husky voice in the mezzo range, which enables her to portray male characters convincingly and without sounding as though she has to strain to maintain a slightly lower pitch. She differentiates very effectively between characters of both sexes, especially between Luke and his friend Parker Reeves, a member of the coastguard team who helped rescue Undine, and who turns out to have a bigger role to play in the story – and series – than it originally seemed. She does a good job with the accented English spoken by Yuri and his nephews, which is subtle and consistently maintained, and her pacing is spot on; she is very good in the action scenes at conveying just the right degree of urgency and excitement and also in the love scenes, which she performs with conviction.
If you’ve already listened to other titles in the Evidence series, then I’m sure that you’ll need no persuasion from me to pick up Cold Evidence. And if you haven’t, then it’s perfectly possible to start here. Rachel Grant has penned another truly compelling story that has everything any romantic suspense fan could want and I loved it.
Now, as to that cliffhanger…
TITLE: Cold Evidence
AUTHOR: Rachel Grant
NARRATED BY: Nicol Zanzarella
GENRE: Romantic Suspense
STEAM FACTOR: Glad I had my earbuds in
REVIEWER: CazBuy Cold Evidence by Rachel Grant on Amazon EXCERPT: