Thursday, August 18, 2011

Book Club: Untraceable by Laura Griffin

By: Kris Gilson

I really need to start off by saying I LOVE Laura Griffin’s books! They instantly hook you in and keep you on the edge of your seat until the end. In Untraceable, we meet PI Alex Lovell who helps people drop off the face of the earth. She uses her extensive computer savvy and other PI skills to assist those who need a safe haven. When one of her clients disappears for real, she sets out to uncover what really happened. Alex ends up working with Austin homicide detective Nathan Devereaux and the sparks instantly fly between the two. This story has lots of action and suspense and keeps the reader engaged on every page. There are enough plot twists and turns to keep you guessing all the way through the story. The chemistry between Alex and sexy Nate is the icing on the cake!

Alex is a strong, smart, and independent female lead, and I liked the fact that she knew she needed help and wasn’t afraid to get it. I also liked that Nathan was torn between his guilt that makes him really want to help Alex and his loyalty to a fellow police officer. But, I also liked it that he wasn’t blinded by that loyalty as the truth starts to unfold. As the danger escalates, so does Nathan’s love for Alex. He is such a strong character, pursuing the case and the woman who captured his heart with equal voracity. Not only did I find myself loving the lead characters and cheering for their happy ending, I couldn’t wait for good to triumph over evil!!

I read this book some time ago, and since Alison Peterson read it just this past weekend, I asked her to chip in with a few fresh thoughts about the story and some of the things she liked. Thank you Alison!

I think Alex Lovell comes across as very tough, but she’s really a softie inside. She really cares about Melanie and even though she’s freaked out by baby Grace she’s hesitant to give her to CPS and later goes to visit Grace. Alex definitely gets into a lot of trouble…she’s nearly blown up when she goes to the cabin Melanie was staying at, she’s attacked in the mall when she tries to find out who’s following her, she’s nearly shot in New Orleans and she’s kidnapped by Craig at the end. I loved it when she finally went after Nathan and later offered him half her company....Awww!

Did you wonder about Sophie Barrett at the beginning? It seemed like she was after Alex for putting her old boss in jail, but since she never did anything I let her off the hook.

The Delphi Center is very cool. I want to meet more of the people who work there. I hope Mia gets a story. I’m very curious about the cute, young scientist. I didn’t realize how great Alex was with computers until she went into test at Delphi.

Nathan’s a homicide cop who met Alex several months ago on a previous case. He was attracted to her then, but didn’t do anything about it. Now, Alex wants his help investigating Craig Coghan, a friend and fellow cop. I can’t give Nathan any points for “smarts” for continuing to hook up with his ex-wife, Nicole, after their divorce. Why did she still have a key? She’s allowed to stop by anytime? Which she does, at the worst possible time….the morning after Nathan finally gets Alex in his bed. He redeems himself when he admits Alex means more to him than the case and when he holds Alex all night and lets her cry it out the night Melanie is shot. It was also pretty hot when he showed her they have more than just sex in New Orleans. Gotta love the house he leases for them!

Nathan doesn’t start believing Alex about Craig until bodies killed with baling wire start turning up. Apparently it takes a pretty strong person to kill with baling wire. I love tha he picks a fight and kicks Craig's ass in front of the courthouse to get Craig’s DNA! Craig needed his ass kicked! Especially since by then we know Craig is the sicko who is burning the prostitutes and his wife’s neck with cigarettes during sex.

I really liked Troy Stockton. It definitely doesn’t hurt that he looks like Brad Pitt, but he’s a good friend to Alex. He puts her in touch with the Delphi Center to analyze the blood on the ear bud she found. I loved when he kissed her in front of Nathan to just to get a rise out him. LOL! He’s the one who goes to New Orleans and calls her out on being a coward for letting Nathan leave. He freaked me out a little when he wouldn’t leave the motel and offered Alex $10k for her laptop. I for a second thought he might have lost it or was somehow involved…since at that point I didn’t know who all the bad guys were. I’m terrible at guessing who the bad guy is, so now I’m always looking at the person I would least expect!

John Holt’s an interesting character; I wonder if he’ll be in any of the other books in the series. He seems to be pretty good friends with Mia at the Delphi Center. I don’t know how he managed it, but he was always there when the serious action went down…Alex’s attack in the mall, when Melanie was shot at the All Saint’s Motel, and when Nathan and Hodges went after Coghan when he had Alex.

Laura will be with us today and offering a signed copy of her new release SNAPPED along with a $15 Starbucks gift card. We look forward to welcoming her to book club!

Here’s the hard part. Those of you who know me understand that if my husband didn’t cook, we’d likely starve at my house (or eat every meal out!). I figured I’d pick something that is Texas-ish, so I have not a clue if this is even remotely good, but it was highly rated!

True Texas Chili

  • 2 ounces dried, whole New Mexico (California), guajillo, or pasilla chiles, or a combination (6 to 8 chiles)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • 5 tablespoons lard, vegetable oil, or rendered beef suet
  • 2 1/2 pounds boneless beef chuck, well trimmed and cut into 3/4-inch cubes (to yield 2 pounds after trimming)
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped onion
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups beef stock , or canned low-sodium beef broth, plus more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons corn tortilla flour
  • 1 tablespoon firmly packed dark brown sugar, plus more as needed
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar, plus more as needed
  • Sour cream
  • Lime wedges

Place the chiles in a straight-sided large skillet over medium-low heat and gently toast the chiles until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Don't let them burn or they'll turn bitter. Place the chiles in a bowl and cover them with very hot water and soak until soft, 15 to 45 minutes, turning once or twice.

Drain the chiles; split them and remove stems and seeds (a brief rinse helps remove seeds, but don't wash away the flesh). Place the chiles in the bowl of a blender and add the cumin, black pepper, 1 tablespoon salt and 1/4 cup water. Purée the mixture, adding more water as needed (and occasionally scraping down the sides of the blender jar), until a smooth, slightly fluid paste forms (you want to eliminate all but the tiniest bits of skin.) Set the chile paste aside.

Return skillet to medium-high heat and melt 2 tablespoons of the lard. When it begins to smoke, swirl skillet to coat and add half of the beef. Lightly brown on at least two sides, about 3 minutes per side, reducing the heat if the meat threatens to burn. Transfer to a bowl and repeat with 2 more tablespoons of lard and the remaining beef. Reserve.

Let the skillet cool slightly, and place it over medium-low heat. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of lard in the skillet; add the onion and garlic and cook gently for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the stock, the remaining 2 cups water and gradually whisk in the masa harina to avoid lumps. Stir in the reserved chile paste, scraping the bottom of the skillet with a spatula to loosen any browned bits. Add the reserved beef (and any juices in the bowl) and bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to maintain the barest possible simmer (just a few bubbles breaking the surface) and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender but still somewhat firm and 1 1/2 to 2 cups of thickened but still liquid sauce surrounds the cubes of meat, about 2 hours.

Stir in the brown sugar and vinegar thoroughly and add more salt to taste; gently simmer 10 minutes more. At this point, it may look like there is excess sauce. Turn off the heat and let the chili stand for at least 30 minutes, during which time the meat will absorb about half of the remaining sauce in the skillet, leaving the meat bathed in a thick, somewhat fluid sauce. Stir in additional broth or water if the mixture seems too dry. If the mixture seems a bit loose and wet, allow it to simmer a bit more (sometimes we like to partially crush the cubes of beef with the back of a spoon to let them absorb more sauce). Adjust the balance of flavors with a bit of additional salt, sugar, or vinegar, if you like.

Reheat gently and serve in individual bowls with a dollop of sour cream on top and a lime wedge on the side.


krisgils33 said...

Morning all!
Thanks again to Alison for helping with the write-up! This book was so deliciously good....lots of action, great dialogue, and don't forget the sexual tension!!! (always a crowd pleaser!) Have a great day (and an Oreo)!!!

Alison said...

Good Morning!

Anytime Kris!

This was a great book! I enjoyed it so much I read Unspeakable and Unforgiveable last weekend too!

Laura Griffin said...

Good morning everyone! So excited to be here today to hang out with you and talk books :)

Laura Griffin said...

Thank you for the wonderful write-up, Kris and Alison. I was recalling some of the plot twists I'd forgotten as I read through your post.

To answer a few questions: Yes, Mia gets her story! It's called UNFORGIVABLE, and it's my most recent release. Mia puts her DNA expertise to work unraveling a murder mystery with Detective Ric Santos.

Also, Sophie Barrett gets her day in the sun, too. She reappears in UNFORGIVABLE and is the heroine in my upcoming book SNAPPED, which comes out in just a few days. I'll be giving away a signed copy of SNAPPED here on the blog today.

krisgils33 said...

Thanks for joining in Laura! And for the giveaway!!! I haven't gotten to Unforgiveable yet, but I'm already looking forward to Snapped!!

Can you tell us what else on the horizon for the Tracers? More books, I hope!!!

I also saw on Facebook you just returned from Mexico. Hope you had a relaxing vacation. Did you get any book ideas while traveling?

Laura Griffin said...

Hi Kris,
Yes, just back from Mexico. I've had a number of book scenes set there over the years.

One fun thing I got to do while down there was visit Coconuts Bar, which was the inspiration behind the beachfront bar in UNSPEAKABLE. Always good to drink a margarita in the name of book research! Here are the pics from Coconuts:

debbie h said...

Hi Marie, look two of my favorite authors in one place. I also LOVE Laura's novels and am so looking forward to the next in this great series.
Thanks for hosting her it's great to see you both.


Alison said...

I finished UNFORGIVABLE Tuesday night so I am ready for SNAPPED!

I love that your books are set in Austin. I live in Houston and have been to Austin a few times, so having a real reference of where they are made the story even better for me.

You have a lot of forensic details in this did you do all your research?

ShellyE said...

Great write up Kris! This was my first Laura Griffin book and I enjoyed it. One thing I especially liked about this book is you knew who the bad guy was from the outset (I'm not very good at figuring out "who done its"). It was interesting to see how they finally were able to bring Craig done - because he made it a personal vendetta against Alex. I think that mirrors real life in that the criminal gets cocky because he has been "getting away with murder" for so long, which is ultimately his downfall. Thanks for visiting Laura!

Tara said...

Hi All! Great write up Kris and Alison! And Alison, I can't wait to try the chili recipe, looks amazing, thanks.

Laura, thanks for stopping by today. I love this series and can't wait for Snapped. I really like Sophie and am excited she gets her story.

I like the concept of Delphia, how did you come up with the idea for it and its back story on how it was created? And how many more books can we expected in this series, I really enjoy it and hope it continues on for quite some time.

Have a great day everyone and thanks for another great book club!

Laura Griffin said...

Hi Deb! Hi Alison! Thanks for reading the books.

UNTRACEABLE is the first in the Tracers series. Most of the books are set in Austin or San Marcos, which is home to the Delphi Center.

Alison, I'm originally from Houston and I like writing Texas settings.

Laura Griffin said...

Hi Shelly and Tara!

Someone asked about research. That is the best part of writing, I think! I started out as a newspaper reporter, so I love to do interviews with people. For the Tracers series, I've interviewed all sorts of cops, forensic scientists, crime scene techs, etc... For the upcoming book SNAPPED, which opens with a sniper scene, I interviewed a police sniper about SWAT tactics. I love interviewing people to get ideas for stories and characters.

Lisa Filipe said...

Hey everyone,
Firstly, Laura I really enjoy all of your books, one of my favorites being Thread of Fear, which has my beloved Nathan...swoon, anyway I am a BIG fan of Jack and Fiona, one of my top fav fiction couples. Among them is Nathan and Alex.
I am not normally a Romance Suspense kind of girl. Birthright by Nora, which is one of my favorites, was really it for me. But after reading Unraceable I ran right back to B& N and purchased the other four of your books and dove in. That when I came across Thread and Whisper, and my first peak of Alex and Nathan.
I was taken in after the first page of Untraceable, the ups and downs, the relationship between these two hard headed people....I loved, loved it.
I had purchased Unspeakable and Unforgiveable but had yet to read them...but I am starting today so I can finish them before Snapped comes out on the 30th.

Lisa Filipe said...

Quick question, Did you plan out Alex and Nathan's story from Whisper or did it just come about after?

Aly said...

Blogger ate my post ::sniff sniff: I posted before I left for work...Oh well!

My insistence on knowing about all new books allowed me to know about Laura Griffin books from the start. And of course I have been hooked since reading One Last Breath :)

I have loved The Tracers Series. I really enjoyed how we met some of the characters back in the Glass Sisters books. I am a sucker for series and connected books so of course that worked for me.

But really, the characters are what get me and the characters in all of these books are written so wonderfully! Which brings me to the question that I love asking authors.

Laura, do you find the hero or the heroine more difficult to write? Or does it depend on the character and the book?

Thanks so much for spending time with us today and answering our questions! And thanks for writing such fantastic books!

oklanannie said...

Good morning everyone! Thanks to Laura Griffin for visiting and sharing her time and talents with us. Great review by both Kris and Alison! Can't wait to try the Texas Chili -- maybe during OU/Texas football game this fall!!

Laura, I've read & been captivated by all your books to date. I can't wait to get my hands on "SNAPPED." Sophie's personality has intrigued me from her first appearance in "Untraceable" and I'm so excited she is the lead, along with Jonah, in your latest. I'm super excited to also see two upcoming books listed on your website ("Twisted" and an untitled one). Care to share who the main characters will be???

Why did you choose the romantic suspense genre? Do your characters "speak" to you and guide you in your writing?

Marie Force said...

Morning everyone and welcome to Laura! Great write-up Kris! I'm enjoying this book very much but have failed to get my homework done in time for today. I know, I know.... 20 lashes with a wet noodle! :-)

I had the pleasure of meeting Laura in person at RWA this year, and we had a great time together. Thanks again for joining us at book club and for the giveaways!

Michelle said...

Hi everyone!

I haven't read any of Laura's books yet but I do love a good Romantic Suspense story. I do like it when you're kept guessing right to the end!

Laura, do you plan your plot twists from the start or do you occasionally surprise yourself as you are writing?

Hope said...

Morning gals....great write up Kris (and Alison lol). I loved these books and can't wait for Snapped.

Question Laura...Has the series turned out like you originally planned, or have your characters thrown you some curve balls?

Joyce Lamb said...

Wow, who could ask for more? Great books AND a Texas chili recipe?
Very nicely done write-up, Kris and Alison! If I weren't already a big fan of Laura's books, I'd be snapping them up now!

Laura Griffin said...

Hi again! To answer Lisa's question, I did not originally think Nathan would end up with Alex. Actually, when I introduced Nathan in THREAD OF FEAR, I thought he might end up with Courtney. But as I began writing WHISPER OF WARNING, Courtney's path changed dramatically. Sometimes you have something in mind but the characters seem to demand a different path.

Laura Griffin said...

Hi Aly, So glad you're enjoying the Tracers series! I like connected books, too. Some authors prefer writing stand-alones. I like to write plots that stand alone so that people new to the series can dive in. But it's so fun when the characters overlap. As the book unfolds, I find my secondary characters coming to life and by the time I finish I want them all to have a book of their own.
As for heroes v. heroines... don't know which is harder to write. I think it depends on the story.

Ronlyn said...

Morning...*checking the clock, yes it's still morning here*

Great write up girls! Kara is the one that introduced me to Laura. In fact I think I picked up the second book in the series and KK actually sent me the first one so I would read them in order. LOL. But, I've been intrigued by Alex from the start and was thrilled to read her story. It definitely took turns that I wasn't expecting, which is always a good thing. And I can't wait to read more about the Tracers.

My question for Laura: how far into the series did you plan when you first started?

Laura Griffin said...

To answer the question about what's up next in the Tracers series... I have at least three more books planned. SNAPPED comes next (Sophie's story). After that is TWISTED, which features a police detective readers will meet in the next book. And following that is an untitled Tracers novel, featuring Kelsey Quinn, who is the forensic anthropologist who works at the Delphi Center. She's made a cameo in many of the Tracers stories and was center stage in the Tracers novella UNSTOPPABLE. I'm happy for her to have her full-lenght book.

Lisa Filipe said...

Just finished Surrender at Dawn this you think you might have anything more in store for Charlotte and Jack?

krisgils33 said...

I am sooooooo glad to hear there are several more Tracers stories on the way!!!!!

Lisa Filipe said...

and where in the series does Unstoppable stand? or is it more free standing?

Alison said...

I'm glad Kelsey is getting her own book. I was curious about her story after seeing more of her in UNFORGIVEABLE.

Laura Griffin said...

About Kelsey... She appears in many of the Tracers stories and has her own novella called UNSTOPPABLE, which is part of the DEADLY PROMISES anthology that I did with Sherrilyn Kenyon, Dianna Love, and Cindy Gerard (it came out last fall). In the novella, she meets a Navy SEAL and begins a whirlwind affair. But there is more to their story, so these two will be getting a full-length book soon (still called Untitled!).

maria said...

Hi everyone
I'm new to the book club. Laura, just wanted to drop by and tell you that I love all your books. My favorite is Untraceable. I just love Alex and Nathan. I wanted to know if you were planning to write a story for Scott Black who appeared in Unforgivable. I really liked him. Also glad that Kelsey and Gage are getting their own full length story

Jane said...

I love this book. I like the way Nathan describes his wife as a Christmas fiend. I was happy that he didn't hook up with Nicole in the book.

Jocelyn said...

Just dropping by to say "hi" and how much I love Laura Griffin's books! I'm eagerly awaiting the next one "Snapped".

The Loopy Librarian said...

I love the recipe for Texas chili. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it and it's not even dinner time! allisonmoyer (at)yahoo (dot)com.

Mary G said...

Awesome write up Kris & Alison. I've collected a number of Laura's books but haven't read them yet. How great is it that this is one of them & I don't have to go looking for it LOL. I'd be going crazy!

Hi Laura
It's amazing how many of my fave authors were/are journalists.

Speaking of .. Hi there Joyce Lamb!

Kara C said...

Nothing helps melt away the stress of 'first week of school' drama like a book club discussion...and on one of my favorite books too!
Any of you who know me will not be surprised to know that once I discovered Laura's books, I started with the first book and worked my way down the list. LOL! For those of you who haven't read them all, get on it! You will not be disappointed.
And thanks for the shout out, Ronlyn. One of my missions in life is to help folks read in order. :-)
Thanks for visiting with us today, Laura.
All this talk of UNTRACEABLE has me thinking I need a series reread before SNAPPED!

Laura Griffin said...

Thanks for this wonderful feeback, you guys! I love to hear that people are liking the books. I really like the chemistry between Nathan and Alex, too.

Maria, you asked about Scott Black, the former Spec Ops guy who is the ballistics expert. You will be seeing him again in SNAPPED. And I think he definitely has hero potential :)

Jane said...

Will Rowe and Kate get their own book?

Laura Griffin said...

Hi Jane,
Lots of people ask about Kate & Rowe. I had intended to write their story immediately following ONE WRONG STEP but my publisher had other plans (funny how that can happen). I hope to get back to them sometime down the road.

Monikarw said...

love your books!:)
Good to hear you had a good time here in Mexico! We have such a great country, right?;)
thanks for the giveaway!


Marie Force said...

Winners from Laura:

Joyce Lamb wins the $15 gift card to Starbucks.

Aly wins the signed copy of SNAPPED.

Winners, please email with a mailing address and she will send you your prize.

Thanks so much for the book chat!

Alison said...

Congrats Aly & Joyce!

Laura Griffin said...

Thank you for inviting me to hang out with the Romance & Oreos Book Club!

I have an Oreo story to share. Just last night I was watching a show about the making of “Dances with Wolves”. The director was talking about filming the buffalo hunt scene. Out of the enormous herd of buffalo, they identified one friendly buffalo that would approach the camera when offered Oreos. So this is the animal you see in most of the close-up shots.

Who knew there were so many uses for Oreos?

Again, it was fun to hang out with you all. Thanks for having me!

Aly said...

WOO HOOO!!!! Thanks Marie and Laura! Congrats to Joyce!