Running Off Radar by MB AustinRunning Off Radar by MB Austin is a combination mystery, thriller, and romance, and it’s Austin’s second book in the Maji Rios series.

This sequel is different from the first, which was a cat-and-mouse undercover sting operation that needed time and patience in order to get all the pieces in position to complete the mission: a takedown of the finances of the biggest families in organized crime.

This book is a fast-paced thrill ride, as Maji tries to uncover the mystery of why the Russian crime boss from book one is interested in a remote village in Alaska, what the Russians are looking for, why a local man mysteriously died in the area they’re searching, and do all that while trying to reconnect and restart her relationship with Professor Rose diStephano. Maji and Rose had an undeniable connection that started during the undercover operation run by Angelo Benedetti, Rose’s cousin and Maji’s best friend and team leader, to take down the Benedetti family and as many other crime families as they could.

Worried about the danger of her job, and her inability to not only be present for special occasions but also to tell a significant other why she wouldn’t be there or even what she was doing, Maji had split with Rose at the end of Angelo’s operation. Now Rose has invited Maji to join her at a conference in Sitka, Alaska to see if their time apart has changed Maji’s mind, or feelings. Once in Sitka, Maji can’t help but notice a few mysterious and unexplained events. Her bosses tell her to keep her eyes open; they’ve had reports of sightings of a Russian submarine in the area, and want Maji to report back anything suspicious.

Anything like interrupting Russians abducting a local woman who just happens to be the business partner of the man who died. Looking into things further, Maji uncovers a decades old backup plan from a Russian mobster. A plan it looks like he needs to fall back on now, and he isn’t interested in letting anyone stand in his way. With a SEAL team for backup, Maji races against time and the Russians in order to thwart the mobster’s plans, leaving Rose safe at her convention. Or so she thinks.

The Characters

Austin continues to develop her characters in this second book, giving us a deeper look into who they are and what they want out of life. Maji is still a badass, but now she at least admits she was an idiot for letting Rose go. Sure she doesn’t want to hurt her, and she still thinks that’s inevitable with her job as an operative, but what’s between the two women isn’t something that comes along every day. She’s finally come to the conclusion that Rose is worth the risk, and that she can’t make Rose’s decisions for her. If Rose still wants something with her, knowing all the downsides now, then Maji is going to grab on with both hands and never let her go.

Rose still wants Maji; she’s tried dating other people and it just hasn’t worked. So she’s hoping that with her invitation to Alaska, the two of them can talk things out and agree that whatever is between them isn’t going away. I like that we get to see Rose in her element in this book. The professor isn’t only learning about traditional foods of native peoples at this conference, put on by the local indigenous tribe, she’s also giving her own presentation. It shows that Rose is one of the experts in her field, and gives us a glimpse of how good she is at her job.

The Writing Style

The pace in this book is much faster than book one, which is a welcome change. I liked book one, but like an actual sting operation, we readers had to be patient to get the payoff. This book seems to have more forward momentum from the get go. Not only are things happening from the start that end up connected to everything going on, but Rose and Maji’s relationship also takes off from the start, and we don’t have to wait long to get drawn into their lives. At the same time, everything in this book is as tightly plotted as book one. There are no holes, no extraneous threads that wander off into the wilds and never get tied off. It’s a pleasure to look back at some things I thought were just there to flesh out the narrative, or a particular scene, and discover that they actually foreshadow and lead in to aspects of the overall mystery. I enjoy when a book does that, and this is very well done.

The Pros

I really liked the fast pace of this book. It drew me in quick and didn’t let me go, whether the scene I was reading related to the Russian agenda or the personal relationship. I also liked that Austin allows her characters to have flaws and make decisions that, while I may not like them, show that they are human. Rose’s naivety about being able to be in a relationship with Maji takes a hit in this second story, making her realize not only how dangerous Maji’s job is, but how being with Rose can distract her and put her in more danger. And finally, I loved learning about some of the traditions and foods of the Sitka tribe. Any time an author can give me a glimpse into a different culture and have me come out wishing I could experience that culture and learn more means I’ve read a good book. She also described this part of Alaska in a manner that made me want to go see it for myself. What more can a reader ask of an author?

The Cons

There isn’t much I would put here. It is a thriller though, so there is some implied violence and danger for our characters.

The Conclusion

This is a solid sequel, and an excellent second book. Austin continues to develop her characters and their relationship well, and I thoroughly enjoyed being along for the ride. I’m looking forward to reading book three later this year. So yes! I recommend this book, and this series. It’s a really good addition to the genre.

Excerpt from Running Off Radar by MB Austin

Crouching in the aisle, she took a minute to drink in Rose’s features. It was worth nearly four thousand miles of trucks, boats, and planes to see that face again. Please don’t send me home. Not yet. Maji touched Rose’s hand.

Rose startled and looked up. When she looked down and saw Maji, she smiled broadly, grasping her hand. “You made it! I didn’t see you get on.”

“Had to run for it. Got bumped to first class. You want to trade?” Smooth, Rios.

“No. I’m fine.” Rose traced Maji’s cheek and jaw lightly with her fingertips. “You’re sunburned.”

“Yeah. I…yeah. And I lost my phone–sorry.”

“You didn’t get my messages, then?”

“One, right before…um. Did you leave another? Change your mind?” Maji felt tears threaten. Breathe, Rios.

“No,” Rose said, looking unsure how much she wanted to say. “I just wanted to line up lodgings. When I didn’t hear back, I took a single at the dorm.”

Maji knew the local college was hosting the conference in conjunction with the Sitka Tribe. It was probably good that Rose had a place of her own in case their reunion went badly. But she was hoping, well…She swallowed. “Hannah lined up a suite at a hotel, in case you needed security. She didn’t mention that?”

At Rose’s puzzled shake of the head, Maji plunged on. “It’s big enough to share even if you want space to yourself. Or I could take the dorm if…” She couldn’t assume that Rose would fall into bed with her just because she’d invited her along on a work trip. Not getting between Rose and her career was important too. “Um, unless you need to be in the dorms to get everything you want from the conference.”

Rose blushed, but smiled at her warmly. “No, I don’t need to. Let’s settle into the hotel and see how things go.”

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Series

Maji Rios

Strictly Need To Know (Book 1)

Running Off Radar (Book 2)

Double Down (Book 3 – release date: Aug 2019)

Bits and Bobs

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