The danger in the newest Elemental Assassin novel comes not from Gin Blanco’s past, but from her lover Owen Grayson’s. Most of the characters in Estep’s riveting series suffer from serious emotional baggage. What makes this ensemble so compelling is their determined struggle to build new lives. Estep has found the perfect recipe for combining kick-butt action and high-stakes danger with emotional resonance.
Gin and Owen’s relationship is progressing nicely, until Owen’s ex, Salina Dubois, sashays back into town. A powerful water elemental, Salina plans to restore her family legacy, which was destroyed when her father was murdered by a now-deceased criminal kingpin. Gin suspects something strange is happening when mysterious casino owner Phillip Kincaid, who has his own ties to both Owen and Salina, hires her and her Pork Pit restaurant to cater a party. During the event Gin ends up saving Kincaid from assassination, but who is targeting him? And Salina may look like a sweet Southern belle, but this devil in a blue dress has her own plans … both for Owen and for the city of Ashland. (POCKET, Aug., 400 pp., $7.99)