Hard Target (Alex Morgan #2), by Leo J. Maloney

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Leo J. Maloney, and Kensington Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Leo J. Maloney is back with another adventure for the younger Morgan family member. Alex has become the rising star in Zeta Group, even though some cannot see the benefit in her role. When Alex and a handful of others are tasked with helping the NSA, things go wrong while they are in Chicago. An attempt on the vice-president’s life is foiled, but bodies are everywhere, with Alex the sole apparent survivor. Many feel that this is a Zeta mission and a manhunt is started to bring Alex Morgan to justice. She’s on the lam, just her and a motorcycle, but she won’t be able to do it alone. It’s fast-paced like you have never seen it before in this novella. Maloney fans will not be disappointed.

Whispers of a planned attack in Chicago reach the highest levels of US security, which causes worry when the vice-president is set to speak there. Zeta Team is sent in to help, seconded to other agencies, though there are multiple issues to tackle and little time to do it. When an explosion rips through an underground passage, many die and an ensuing shootout brings the body count even higher. When the smoke clears, it seems only one person is left alive, Alex Morgan. Rather than cheering this, US officials wonder if she was behind the attack and have started a manhunt to locate her.

Left with little to do but hide, Alex tries to make her way out of Chicago on her motorcycle, which is not the most conspicuous of transportation modes. She will have to be as stealthy as possible, but even that can’t be done alone. While traveling, she learns of a second attack on a uranium facility, sending Alex on another mission to protect her country. It won’t be easy, but she finds help in an unlikely source to make it a little easier. Meanwhile, her ever-protective father, Dan Morgan, is working with Zeta to save all involved before it’s too late.

This was a great novella that read family quickly. It’s got all the elements that Leo J. Maloney usually brings to a book, with strong characters, action that never stops, and short chapters to push the story forward. The reader familiar with the series and Zeta will know that there is little time to rest at any point, keeping a heightened level of excitement throughout. While only a short piece, Maloney hit the mark with this one. Teasers can only help fuel the interest in the next publication, something that I am eager to see, when it comes to fruition.

Kudos, Mr. Maloney, for another winner in this series. I have come to expect great things when you write and rarely am I disappointed.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Angle of Attack (Alex Morgan #1), by Leo J. Maloney

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Leo J. Maloney, and Kensington Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

After a harrowing run with Dan Morgan, Leo J. Maloney turns to the next generation of gritty agents tasked with helping keep the world safe. Alex Morgan is set to step out of her father’s shadow in Angle of Attack, her first full-length novel. While she knows the ins and outs of Zeta Group, Alex could not have prepared for this mission or those lurking in the background that will stop at nothing to bring her down. A great piece for fans of the Dan Morgan series, as well as readers who love a female protagonist who can hold her own with aplomb.

While Alex Morgan prepares for her first full mission within Zeta Group, she is shocked to see her father finally taking some time off. It’s been years since Dan Morgan could play the role of public citizen and enjoy things without a pretence of being on guard. Alex is being sent to Monaco to look into whispers of something monumental taking place during the Grand Prix event there.

Things begin with an explosive start as the private jet on which she is travelling watches its hanger explode moments after taxiing. Zeta Group is put on the defensive, but Alex refuses to back down, citing the need to move ahead with the mission.

Meanwhile, two other agents answer a call to a potential situation in Malaysia, only to discover that someone’s neutralised the terror group and left the bodies for Zeta Group to find. Could there be a turf war taking place, one in which a new group is seeking to distract Zeta before handling the situation, wasting valuable time?

After intel sends Alex Morgan to the vaults of the grand casino in Monaco, she discovers the bomb has been diffused, but its radioactive material is missing. This could be Ares Group at work again, luring Alex into the trap and then showing that her time and efforts are wasted, keeping her from the real target.

When news that there is something planned at the next Grand Prix event in Montreal, Alex is there, again acting in a quasi-undercover capacity. She’s ready to strike, though it does not help that she has no idea who or what she’s trying to neutralise. This could be a type of danger no amount of stories heard on Dan’s knee could help prevent. With so many people at risk, there is no time to play a game of cat and mouse with Ares, or is there?

I have always enjoyed the work of Leo J. Maloney, as it not only offers up something full of action, but also keeps the characters working in a somewhat relatable environs. Having spent time in both Monaco and Montreal, I could see things as they progressed, while also being completely drawn in by everything that’s taking place.

Alex Morgan does a wonderful job as protagonist in this piece, easily filling the shoes her father left out. She’s gritty and determined, without being reckless. Alex knows what is expected of her and yet she is one who will bend things a little if it helps her make needed progress. Fans of the Dan Morgan series will have seen some of her backstory emerge, though it is not discussed in any detail here, forcing new readers to piece things together on the fly. Alex keeps herself busy and develops effectively throughout the story, but has left much of herself open for further growth, so long as Maloney keeps the series going for a time.

The use of strong supporting characters is key to the success of a novel. While there are a number of names and faces from the elder Morgan adventures, those who make their first appearance here work well to create a foundation that allows Alex Morgan to shine. The antagonism is prevalent throughout, though it is not as blatant, forcing the reader to sense that evil though a number of characters in passing. This is a great technique that keeps things from diverting from Alex Morgan’s growth.

The story was quite straightforward and kept the reader engaged. Maloney uses some unique perspectives and situations to help differentiate from some of the earlier novels, while never lessening the sense of action. There’s a mix of chapter lengths to set the scene and develop the narrative, as needed in this fast-paced book. Never a lull in the action, which permits the story to propel itself forward until the very end, but even at that point, there are some unresolved moments. I am eager to see how Alex Morgan grows in a lead character role, having sat in the shadows throughout her formative years.

Kudos, Mr. Maloney, for another winning story. I am eager to see what you have in store for your next Morgan protagonist.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons