Take a deep, cleansing breath before plunging into "Line of Fire," the newest Autumn Rain novel by Rachel Ann Nunes.
It'll be awhile before you'll feel it's safe to exhale again.
“Line of Fire” takes off at a dead run and only slows slightly before it wraps up for a solid smack-of-a-conclusion after Autumn Rain and her policeman-turned-boyfriend poke the hornet's nest.
As Rain sets out to solve the mystery of what happened to a kidnapped young girl, she's really only planning on some mild adventure and the reading of a few imprints that can lend help to the local police.
She's still recovering from the last book where she was shot in the shoulder, and she's more wary now of coming across "imprints" that can both warm and horrify.
Reading imprints is her gift. Rain can pick up memories and impressions of the people who've handled a garment, a set of keys, or a picture, anything that's been held by someone experiencing strong emotions. The imprints take a toll on those who read them and can be physically harmful, but they give Rain an advantage when it comes to figuring out what has happened.
Rain now wears gloves as a rule and, since it's freezing and wintry, she's wearing a pair of soft leather boots on feet that seldom see shoes.
She's also "armed" with some martial arts skills and some ability with a gun — though she still insists she won't ever shoot anyone.
Her relationship with detective Shannon Martin is warming up, so the invitation to help him in a case that might involve her long-lost father cannot be refused.
But nothing and no one in this story is what it or they seem. There are twists and turns that keep going right until the end — after 200 or so pages, it's easy to feel a bit of whiplash coming on as the power changes hands just one too many times.
It's also a bit of an endurance race as well as Rain and Martin keep getting surprised and then beaten up by the bad guys who were the good guys who are now the bad guys again.
There's an interesting story along the way not only with the characters involved in the crimes, but with the man Rain believes may be her and her twin sister's father. The imprint gift brings its own challenges and surprises, especially since the man she thinks might be her biological father apparently has the same gift.
The crimes being committed are bigger than first surmised, and the author actually addresses human trafficking along with drug trafficking without flinching.
There is no profanity, no sexual passage and no explicit detail. The evil that's gone on or that might happen is addressed without detail or strong imagery, and good ultimately triumphs.
Rain is a likeable hero and a strong character who can just keep firing if she has a little protein now and then.
The Autumn Rain series is a keeper.
Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.