Criminal Instinct: Kelly Lynn Parra

Twenty-one-year-old Ana Moreno may be diminutive, but what she lacks in size is more than made up in survival instinct. After her father died and her mother abandoned her, Ana was thrown into the foster system and ultimately, a life of crime.

Facing a five-year stretch on charges of burglary and attempted murder, Ana was given a choice: serve her time in prison or as an undercover agent for the Secret Informant Drug Enforcement (SIDE) program. Choosing the latter, Ana joined a handful of her peers and together they fight the war on drugs; one dealer at a time.

When word came down that a deadly shipment of Ecstacy was on its way to San Fran, Ana and the rest of the SIDE team were given their assignments; Ana’s was to get cozy with the main man suspected of working for one of the biggest players—the gorgeous, but dangerous Jonas Saven.

When Ana accidentally ran into Saven while gathering intel, neither of them was ready for the intense connection each felt for the other. Ana tried hard to fight her feelings and focus on her goal; knowing, in the end, their worlds would collide and she’d have to choose.

In the beginning, there was nothing much to like about Ana or even the rest of the team. They were just a handful of people thrown together by their collective desire to stay out of prison.

Too much space was devoted to the perceived issues with Ana: her skin color, her mixed heritage, how damaged and badass she is and her inability to trust anybody; by the 100th time, I was ready to call it quits. OK! We get it! Ana’s damaged goods. It’s just not clear why you’d have to constantly bring up that she’s Mexican and Caucasian like it’s a disease. With the fact that she’s so petite and exotically gorgeous also being pounded into our heads, she could’ve been half schnauzer and nobody would’ve cared.

Along with the repetitive Ana-has-problems mantra, there are the constant fight scenes. It’s not that the book is too violent—it kind of is—but it’s not productive. Instead of the story moving forward, the reader is bogged down in the play-by-play of every scuffle the SIDE agents get caught up in. Honestly, they’d have to defend their lives less in prison.

By the halfway point I was still ready to throw in the towel—but my curiosity regarding Ana and Jonas got the best of me. However, when the next refrain of “Nobody Loves Me Because I’m Half Mexican” began to play, I had second thoughts about my second thoughts.

It wasn’t until the second half that Kelly Lynn Parra hit her stride. Things were finally moving forward, the pace was picking up and the plot became more cohesive. With the exception of Ana taking Mike Tyson style beat downs and coming back for more, Parra managed to keep things fairly believable.

Although things started off a bit shaky, everything finally came together. In the end, I’m glad I stuck with it; and might even go so far as to say a sequel wouldn’t be a bad idea.

 April 1st, 2016  
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