This is an unusual situation for me. More typically, I get a romance novel I luuuurrrvvve and stop loving the author's work as I read _backward_ through her product. It's entirely possible that if I reread Brockmann's books that I have previously enjoyed, they would annoy me as much as this one has. And to be fair, I've been noticing something develop over a series of books -- this isn't a tremendous surprise.
Brockmann's Troubleshooters series in particular has a number of attributes attractive to a conservative audience: heroic military action, Manly Men, Sexy Women, blah, blah, bleeping, blah. This audience at times complains, because the Troubleshooters series _also_ has a number of attributes attractive to a progressive audience: gay romance, women who stand up for themselves and are capable in action themselves. This is all something I kinda like about Brockmann. It's an unusual and appealing mix.
Many of the books have included a ripped-from-the-headlines and/or crime-of-the-week feature: serial murderer, terrorists, batshit crazy fundamentalist religious community, etc. This outing revolves in part around Neesha, a young Indonesian girl whose mother died and she was sold to a brothel. As near as I can tell, this brothel is in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Neesha was there from ages 8 to 16 or thereabouts and access to her sexually was sold to a steady stream of customers throughout that time frame. Early, once a week or so. Later, a couple times a day or more. And the way the story is told, this isn't a handful of guys coming back repeatedly, but rather hundreds if not thousands of customers of the time she is in the brothel.
This defies belief. Go find me _anything_ even _remotely_ like this in the news. You won't. You can barely _find_ anything about international human trafficking to the US anyway; it's so rare the focus is now on domestic human trafficking (e.g. abusive dad makes his teenage daughter sell sex). Brockmann is asking me to believe that (a) there's a customer base for what this brothel is selling (b) it's possible to connect with this customer base without running into law enforcement (c) your employees (necessary to manage your resistant employees) don't rat you out (d) your customers don't rat you out (e) no one brags to the wrong person. And this all happens from 2001-2009 in Las Vegas in what is, as near as I can tell, a _single_ facility. This isn't a move-em-around scheme.
And then this 16 year old who escapes and haunts malls and other places and is trying to figure out how to get back to Jakarta to where her grandfather was 8 years ago is worried about being detected as an illegal. Really? Because she wouldn't -want- to be deported? I just do not get it. Brockmann seems to have compressed several Hot Button Issues into a single character in a way that does a disservice to all of the issues, and to the character. This is _not_ the first time she's combined Too Much into one character, but something about this particular combination just pissed me off.
I read the first half of this book really fast, because I kept hoping it would get better. If you've read this book and you think I've gotten some key aspect of this subplot factually wrong, I'd be interested in hearing about it.
I think I'm _more_ sensitive to this kind of unreality in the wake of reading _Popular Crime_. James made the observation that _every_ serial murderer in fiction was way more organized (in terms of ritual, staging, etc.) than _any_ serial murderer in reality: no overlap. This is not true of just serial murderers in fiction.