Rating: 4.75 stars
Buy Link: Amazon | All Romance | Amazon UK
Note: This is the third book in a series that works best when read in order, and as such, there may be mild spoilers in this review for the previous books.
When Craig Haney was a cop, a chemical spill 7 years ago gave him super powers and he became Freight Train, Panopolis’ favorite and greatest Hero. Craig takes his job very seriously. All he’s ever wanted to do is help and protect people. So even though he’s in the limelight, he only does the job because it’s what’s in his heart. It’s not about fame and prestige. And since his power comes from being surrounded by a force field—he doesn’t feel touch, and he can’t touch others because of the electrical buzz—he’s resigned himself to a lonely life.
Craig is sponsored by and indebted to GenCorp, the biggest corporation in town. They make the straws and food supplements that keep him nourished, and because of his contract, he goes to them for his medical care as well. He’s been in the dark about their true motives for a long time, but when he finds out the truth (in Where There’s Fire) he begins working with the Villains Mastermind and the Mad Bombardier to undermine GenCorp. Though he keeps his association and friendship with Edward and Raul a secret, he does what he can to help them in their quest to rehabilitate the seedier and more villainous Villains and take down GenCorp in the process.
When Ari Mansourian shows up in the clinic, Craig is immediately smitten by the handsome doctor. And when he has a chance encounter with the man, Craig learns of Ari’s desire to understand Craig’s power. Craig is more than willing to help Ari with whatever he wants. The more the two begin to work together to discover what makes Craig’s power work, the closer they become and the more Craig likes Ari. They are keeping secrets from each other, but when they finally divulge them, the two men become even closer.
On the Hero front, Craig is being given menial tasks, seemingly in punishment for not wanting a bigger piece of the limelight. And when the Heroes band together and attack Z street, Edward calls for help and Craig goes running. In the aftermath of the battle, one of the other famous Heroes has a mental break. And when it comes to a confrontation, the Hero ends up dead.
Craig can’t let Ari take the blame, and so he ends up in the famous and despicable prison called the Abbatoir. Craig is not the smartest guy, but he knows nothing good can come of it. It’s a struggle for him to survive. And in the face of some seemingly insurmountable odd, Craig can only do one thing: he must be the hero he is in his heart, even if it means losing his life.
Join me back in Panopolis where Heroes save the day and Villains run amok. I love this world that Cari Z has created, this Gotham-esque town that puts Heroes in the spotlight and makes them celebrities. While the first two books focused on Edward and Raul and their villainy and relationship, Freight Train/Craig played a very large role as a secondary character. I didn’t know quite what to expect when I saw that Craig was the MC of this much longer book. I was initially just a tiny bit disappointed both because I loved Edward so much and because I found Craig somewhat hard to like in the first book, though he redeemed himself a little in the second. But I went into this story with an open mind, knowing that I’d loved the series up until this point and that Cari Z wouldn’t let me down. What I found was an incredibly well-crafted story, characters I cared about immensely, and a story line I found engrossing.
Craig is our narrator, and as I said a moment ago, I found him hard to like in the first book. He was pushy and kind of dense, and I couldn’t believe he, who was supposed to have such a sense of justice, would stand by while Edward was in trouble. What I loved about this book was that I was immediately drawn into his story and was given a great sense of his character. Almost instantly, all those misconceptions I had about Craig were tossed out. Within the first few pages, I understood him far better than I ever did, understood his motivations and his heart, and I found myself completely engaged. This guy has a strong sense of morals and a huge heart. He does the right thing because it’s the right thing, and for no other reason. His motivations are so clear, there was nothing he did that I didn’t expect him to. Craig was a particularly well-drawn character, and I was on his side and in his corner from the very beginning. I will add here, that this is an accomplishment by the author, because I tend to gravitate toward the anti-hero—like Edward and Raul—so to make me care so thoroughly about a traditional Hero was quite a feat.
Ari was a little more mysterious, and from the moment he was introduced, I knew there was something just a little bit off about him. I don’t mean that in a bad way, just that even though it was easy to trust him and see he was coming from a genuine place, there was something lurking just under the surface to say he wasn’t everything he appeared to be. When his secrets came out, I was a little bit surprised (which is always a good thing) and then I hoped beyond hope he was as trustworthy as Craig thought he was. I’m not going to put anything spoilery in here, so you’ll have to read it to see for yourself, but I don’t think it’s much of a surprise to say that he ended up being exactly what I wanted him to be. He and Craig worked on a lot of levels, and I was just so thrilled for Craig. After everything he’s faced, and having been starved for touch for so long, I wanted Ari to be his perfect man.
The romance plot is gently interwoven with the greater arc of corrupt GenCorp and the secrets they’ve been keeping. Here’s where the story took a fantastic turn for me. Cari Z managed to answer questions with her story that I didn’t even know I had. There was a particularly satisfying resolution to one storyline/character that I didn’t even know I wanted until that character showed up again. She managed to expand on previous plot points while also making this a mostly self-contained and original plot. Masterfully done, the writing is smooth and well-paced. Once I started I couldn’t put it down, and loved watching the story unfurl.
I’m a fan of the series and of this author, and this book is an exceptional example why. Admittedly, I have a special fondness for the first two, but this book certainly hold its own and is a fantastic addition to the series. I urge everyone to give this book, and this series, a try.