Code Red by Jennie Hansen
Reviewed by Michele Ashman Bell

Written by bestselling author Jennie Hansen, Code Red is a timely novel.  It has an exciting plot that is filled with a masterful combination of mystery, suspense and romance.  Fans of Jennie Hansen’s books will be thrilled with this new novel and devour it in one sitting.  Readers who haven’t tried her books will become immediate fans and run out to buy more of her novels.

The story begins with the young heroine, Nicole, who lives on Fort Lewis military base in Washington State.  Nicole wanders off to pick blackberries that grow wild on the hillsides of the base and becomes a witness to her father’s murder.  But when she tells her mother and the officers at the base about what she saw, she is accused of having a mental breakdown and is sent to an institution.  Without proof of a body, the authorities accuse her father of being a deserter and the family never sees him again.

Fast forward to the present.  Nicole’s sister, Marcie, has married a wonderful man who is in the service and is stationed in Iraq.  Marcie invites Nicole to come and live with her while J.D. is gone.  The problem is, Marcie is living at Fort Lewis.  Nicole hesitantly agrees to live with her sister and help out with her two small children.  Just as she fears, as soon as she arrives on base, she begins to recall unpleasant memories.  These memories tell her she needs to find out, once and for all, if she actually did witness her father’s murder – or if he truly did just abandon his family.

Marcie tries to talk Nicole out of digging up the past, but Nicole knows she will never move on without resolving the circumstances surrounding her father’s death.

On a jog, one misty morning, Nicole bumps into a young man named Braedon, who’s also out for a morning jog.  Braedon’s reserve unit from Southern Utah has been called up and he is now stationed at Fort Lewis.  Braedon is attracted to Nicole, even though she is not overly talkative about herself and why she’s at Fort Lewis. 

As Braedon makes every effort to find ways to cross paths with Nicole, Nicole is trying to piece together events from the past to figure out what she saw that fateful morning when she witnessed the murder.

At first Marcie is not supportive of her sister’s efforts to open up old wounds, but as Nicole and Marcie come to understand what happened the day their father disappeared, and the weeks that followed his disappearance, they strengthen their relationship and are convinced it’s time to know the truth.  Through e-mails and short conversations, Marcie is able to stay in touch with her husband in Iraq and feel his love and support in their efforts to find out what really happened that fateful morning.

With Braedon’s help, Nicole begins to dig and uncover clues that confirm her suspicions.  Even though her father’s body was never found, she knows without a doubt that it was his murder she witnessed.  The deeper Nicole and Braedon dig, the more they realize they’ve jeopardized their own safety.   Too many close calls let them know that someone is watching their every move. 

Code Red is a thriller and a tender romance – a well-paced, well-thought out suspense story that is filled with excitement and adventure.  Jennie Hansen’s writing is vivid and explosive.  The beautiful setting of the Pacific Northwest comes alive as Braedon and Nicole strive to cheat death while unraveling the mystery surrounding her father’s death.

Although not directly related to the plot of the story, the scenes where we read about J.D. in the desert in Iraq, dealing with camel spiders and terrorists, add depth and authenticity and provide a spiritual tone to the story.  These scenes will increase the reader’s understanding of the sacrifices our soldiers make while serving their country.  The accuracy and detail involved in these scenes give the reader a realistic sense of immediacy, like we are right there, in the country, experiencing everything from a insider’s point of view.  

I enjoyed the relationships in this book between Nicole and Marcie, Nicole and Braedon, and Marcie and J.D.  We see the growth of each character and the development of these relationships that make the book rich and full of depth even with the fast-paced plot. 

Overall I was completely engrossed in the story and satisfied with the ending.  I would highly recommend this book to both men and women and young adult readers.  This book would make a perfect gift for Valentine’s Day and provide hours of enjoyment.

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