Smith’s LA-based FBI Special Agent Ana Grey loves her job, but Good Morning, Killer is more than a fascinating thriller: it is a cautionary tale suggesting lessons to be learned from mixing personal and professional lives, the dedication of bringing criminals to justice and the equally dark corners of passions played out in private.
Protagonist Grey might argue the point at the novel’s beginning, out of her depth in a heady romance with Santa Monica police detective Andrew Berringer, a rugged cop with a couple of bad marriages behind him, not to mention a string of romances. Berringer’s romantic misadventures are offset by an indefinable allure that speaks to Grey on many levels, the detective’s consummate professionalism and a bad-boy edginess making her heart race: “He knew all about dark places and savage unrestraint.”
Working together on the kidnapping of a fifteen-year-old girl, agent and detective run into more than their fair share of challenges as the FBI and local police wrangle for jurisdiction (FBI wins) and their romance hits a particularly rocky patch. Pursuing a likely suspect with fierce determination after assessing the psychological damage to the young victim, Grey proves her mettle but gets seriously tripped up by her entanglement with Berringer. The relationship slips into some very murky waters that leave Grey on the wrong side of the legal system, her career in jeopardy, her life spinning out of control. Caught between following the very specific directions of her attorney and stopping a sexual predator on the prowl for more victims from striking again, Grey proves she is willing to put it all on the line—even her freedom—if it means stopping the monster before he hurts another innocent.
Smith masterfully plots devastating scenarios and unexpected confrontations but shines in character development, exploring the demands of law enforcement, the very human flaws of those who wear badges and the consequences of being exposed to criminal activity on a daily basis. What may seem outrageous in the civilian world might not trigger an alarm between two people inured to violence (though it should), the excitement of the chase juxtaposed with the mind-numbing tedium of a long investigation and the gathering of evidence. With an assortment of suspects, victims, civilians in crisis and the random personalities drawn to law enforcement careers, Smith’s thriller is propelled by adrenaline, passion and danger.
Ana can be forgiven for getting her signals crossed. What may not be as forgivable is her willful blindness and complicity in an extremely dangerous situation. Struggling with closing a case, resolving the deep-seated issues revealed in her romance and keeping her integrity intact, Grey enters a fugue state where the personal and the professional become enmeshed, unable or unwilling to turn away from the emotional devastation of an affair turned nightmare. The reader has a front-row seat to the oncoming train wreck of Ana’s broken life, never sure if this character will actually follow her lover into the gates of hell.