Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Ty Grady and the others in his Sidewinder crew are finally home. After an emotional welcome at the airport, Ty finds he has returned to a world that moved on without him. As Ty deals with the emotional fallout from the their last black op mission and his reunion with Zane, Deuce, Ty’s brother arrives with wedding news. Deuce asks Ty to be his best man. And the wedding? It’s on a remote island in Scotland. And someone’s been threatening his future father-in-law.
Clearly help is needed and Ty calls on Kelly Abbott and Nick O’Flaherty, his Sidewinder brothers, for assistance, a team with their own secrets to hide. When Nick O’Flaherty and Kelly Abbott join Ty and Zane at the wedding on a private island in Scotland, the remoteness of the location and poor cellphone reception gives them jitters. But none of them are prepared when the bodies start falling and the killer or killers identities is someone on this small island, either friend, family or close acquaintance.
With all the families jeopardy, including Ty’s young niece, Ty and Zane, along with Nick and Kelly, must sort through past cases, old enemies, and unknown alliances before more murders occur, including their own. Weddings are supposed to be happy occasions but who will survive this one is anyone’s guess.
Well, here we are. The penultimate story in the Cut & Run series. With Ball & Chain (Cut & Run #8), the bells are starting to ring down the end of this remarkable series and Ty Grady and Zane Garrett is starting on the road to their finale. The penultimate story in any series is a tricky one, but even more so in a series as beloved as this one. It must start to wind down a multitude of plot threads, but not too many, mind you, because you must save the most for the last story. The penultimate story must layout clues, guidelines as it were, for all the events to come without losing sight that this story must have its own legs to stand on. Its own storyline and its own resolution.
Does Ball & Chain and its author, Abigail Roux, accomplish this daunting task? Yes, I think it does. Although I think some readers will be disappointed, others will love it, and the rest are just waiting for that last story and nothing will be able to satisfy them before that story arrives. What a tough audience this book will face as most readers have been with this couple and series from the first book, Cut & Run, and are quite fanatical about Ty and Zane.
One obstacle that I think this book must surmount are the scenes/storylines readers have written for Ty and Zane in their minds since they finished book 7, Touch & Geaux. This is the reunion book, the one we have been waiting for since that heart-wrenching exit at the end of Touch & Geaux. You know, the one that had people pulling out their hair in tears while wailing in dismay. That scene. I have been waiting for that along with you. Did it live up to my expectations? Not on the first reading. Maybe the second. Again, how could anything beat the glorious, and totally unrealistic scenario I had created in my head for Ty and Zane? Cue the swelling music, passionate glances and mad sex acts that happen immediately upon reuniting! What Abigail Roux came up with was so much better and in keeping with the characters, Ty and Zane. It was done with humor, affection for all those returning home and, of course, the love that Ty and Zane held for each other. And I loved it, once I got past the purple prose of my imagination.
I loved the location, that isolated island off the coast of Scotland in the Inner Hebrides. It’s a perfectly spooky place for dead bodies, startling revelations, and hidden passages, of the building and of the heart. It took all the main characters out of their comfort zones (if they still have any by now), and forced them to look closely at what each of them has become, and at the relationships that have carried them through so far. Not a particularly happy time….a sexy one but not a happy one for the most part. Abigail Roux has these precious characters exposing some hard truths about themselves and what their past actions have done to others they care about. Plus this last mission has clearly damaged all the men involved, Digger, Owen, Nick and Ty, all are showing symptoms of PTSD or signs of other trauma that is the result of their final secret mission. The stress is overwhelming them and each is trying to deal with it in their own way.
Ball & Chain is a hard book to review because any detail given can lead to a spoiler. Still there is a lot on Abigail Roux’s agenda for this story. There is the reunion we have been waiting for as Ty returns, along with the rest of the Sidewinders, from a mysterious mission. And the reader is just getting settled into familiar surroundings and the FBI office when we are thrown out of the action and into unfamiliar territory. At the end of the last book, Ty and Zane have outed themselves to their colleagues and bosses and now we wait for the repercussions to hit. And they do but only for a short while and then we are whisked away to Scotland. That felt too abrupt and left this reader feeling a tad unsatisfied about the lack of resolution to this story element.
The wedding in Scotland brings together not only Ty’s entire family, including Ty’s grandfather and his shovel, but Nick and Kelly and the Director too. As loyalties are divided, and old secrets revealed, ties between people begin to unravel as past histories and relationships surface. Sometimes, however, I felt that so many plot threads, one piling on top of another, almost overwhelmed the story. At moments, Ball & Chain almost felt like an extension of the 12 Little Indians movie, with corpses piling up everywhere as it looks bleaker and bleaker for those left on the island. But in true Abigail Roux form, the plot tightens, the nonessentials are pared away, and we are left with Ty and Zane and their fight for each other and a relationship.
Still Ball & Chain is as much about Nick and Kelly as it is about Ty and Zane. It’s about couple dynamics as well as the other complex relationship issues at play here. Sibling brother to brother, Sidewinder brother to brother, lover to lover, fathers/and father figures to sons….Abigail Roux threw it all into the wedding melting pot with explosive results. And this multitude of players, main players, will raise objections from those readers who want Ty and Zane, and only Ty and Zane. And I get that, I really do.
But think back to Touch & Geaux,the preceding story. What a great mess of a book! Full of emotional land mines, psychological quagmires, and quests for revenge to fill several novels, it brought all the Sidewinders together along with Ty and Zane and other important characters only to leave several major plot threads dangling at the end along with character fates. And remember, this includes a mole in the FBI. With that story, everything got tangled up together, people, histories, and past events returning with traumatic results. Now Abigail Roux only has two books to pull it all together. So in my mind, Ball & Chain, as well as the final story, can’t be only Ty and Zane. Because in order for Ty and Zane to have their future, a number of supporting characters have major roles to play for that to happen. So it has to be about those characters as well, even if that makes some readers unhappy about the loss of page time for Ty and Zane.
So back to the question did Ball & Chain do its job? Did it raise the right questions? And did it include all the right people? Did it set the stage for the final story while giving you the reunion you wanted, the drama you expected, as well as the surprises and angst one expects from Abigail Roux and this series? For me, the answer is yes, yes it did.
Repercussions from the events in New Orleans are still rippling through the group, the mole is at large, and a major player has just died. OK, i was pretty happy about that one. Now everyone has returned to the US and the final battles can begin. I can’t wait.
And Abigail Roux did give me an ending this time that I adored (at least as far at Ty and Zane were concerned). One that starts to bring everything to a satisfying conclusion. There is a line towards the end that will be one of my favorite ones of the series. I wonder if you will be able to spot it?
The author has said she won’t go past book 9 for the Cut & Run series, so I expect Ty and Zane to go out with a bang. Maybe even a flashbang. Only the author knows for sure. Roux has made Ty and Zane deal with huge issues and traumas, from alcoholism and torture, lying and commitment, kidnapping and coming out, even claustrophobia and fear of heights. So I expect the final story to feature more of the same, more soul searching and scary events to come.
Maybe even Grandpa with his shovel.
And hopefully a wedding. That would be lovely.
Until then I will search through the series again for more clues about the Mole and people we expect to pop up in the finale. I will reread the moment they were pulled apart in Touch & Geaux, and then the moment they came back together in Ball & Chain. And then I will read the end of this story one more time.
Ty and Zane are about to have their ending. I will be there with tissues in hand to see how it all ends. I will probably hate it in sections and I will love it. That’s the way this series works. And this couple. All or nothing. Bring it on, Abigail Roux!
Cover art by LC Chase continues the wonderful branding that is a mark of this series. Love it although not as much as the tiger.
Paperback, 306 pages
Published March 17th 2014 by Riptide Publishing (first published March 2nd 2014)
original titleBall & Chain
seriesCut & Run #8
charactersTy Grady, Zane Garrett
Books in the Cut & Run series in the order they were written and should be read:
Here are the books in the order they were written and should be read:
- Ball & Chain (Cut & Run #8) the penultimate story
- Touch & Geaux (Cut & Run #7)
- Stars & Stripes (Cut & Run #6)
- Dine & Dash (Cut & Run, #5.5)
- Armed & Dangerous , #5 – by Abigail Roux
- Divide & Conquer #4,*
- Fish & Chips #3, *
- Sticks & Stones #2,*
- Cut & Run #1 – *all of these written by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux