I didn’t realize at first that *Medusa’s Master* was part of a series -quite an extensive series at that. Nonetheless, one of the best things I can say about the novel is that it’s admirably self-contained, and retains focus and pacing even when a platoon of guest stars invades the book in later chapters.
Although labeled as a “H.O.T. Watch” novel, Dees’ introduction and the text make clear that the book is also seventh in the “Medusas” series, focused on an elite Spec Ops force made up wholly of women. Korean-born Katrina Kim (called “Kat”) is just five-foot three, but she’s a trained sniper, linguist, electronics and black-ops specialist – and immediately on meeting H.O.T. Watch operative Jeff Steiger deep in a hidden Caribbean base, she flips him painfully flat on his face with one expert martial arts move.
Impressively, this leads neither to a knock-down brawl nor to a dozen chapters of macho posturing. Quite the opposite, in fact; Jeff and Kat quickly develop a sincere, if wary appreciation for each other’s abilities. However, they’re also victims of what Jeff calls “Cupid’s Bolt”, as Dees plays the Love At First Sight card with a vengeance. The two must control their increasingly turbo-boosted hormones while simultaneously investigating a series of art thefts on Barbados that quickly escalate into something more complex.
Certain aspects of that escalation don’t bear examining too closely. Both too many and too few players are actively hunting the true McGuffin – its owner doesn’t seem to be, and it’s unclear in hindsight how the obligatory Evil Commandos know where it went. But Dees keeps events moving fast enough, in both internal context and narrative pacing, to forestall most readers from second-guessing the plot logic. In addition, the author’s military background ensures that the special-ops sequences are crisp, convincing, and intelligently framed.
As for the romance . . . as much as I like these characters, as impressively steamy as the sex gets, and as good a job as Dees does of exploring both Jeff’s and Kat’s viewpoints on their evolving passion, for me, this is where the book slips from an A to a B. It’s clear almost instantly that Jeff’s feelings for Kat run deeper than alpha-male hormones, and that he consciously recognizes that fact. And Dees does an exceptional job of portraying Kat’s long-delayed achievement of emotional maturity; we see her progress from intensely controlled Vulcan-like reserve (there are no onstage comparisons to Star Trek’s Spock, but the parallel is irresistable) to a woman whose passions run as deep as her principles. But it’s never clear on the page that Kat’s attraction to Jeff is deeper than sexual chemistry and professional respect. I absolutely believe that Jeff’s in love with Kat – but I’m not quite convinced that she’s truly, consciously in love with him.
Yet for all that I can’t quite make the conclusion ring true emotionally, I’m favorably impressed with Dees as a writer, and I suspect Medusas fans will find the book a solid capstone to the series. Certainly I’ll be looking for more of Dees’ work in the future.
1: In case anyone’s not familiar with the term, “McGuffin” refers to whatever it is in a given story that everyone is trying to acquire. In Raiders of the Lost Ark, it’s the Ark of the Covenant, in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy it’s the One Ring, and so forth. The term is said to have originated with Alfred Hitchcock.
2: Amusingly, Jeff and Kat both appear to have unconscious exhibitionist tendencies. Almost all the makeout sequences, not to mention the ultimate Scene Of Mind-Blowing Sex, take place outdoors in public or semi-public places.
3: An odd inconsistency that doesn’t help: just prior to the first makeout scene, we see Kat sip from a glass of Chardonnay. Much later, however, Kat tells Jeff that she doesn’t drink and is allergic to alcohol. This is almost certainly an accidental copy-editing glitch rather than a deliberate plot point, but the later comment casts the early scene in a decidedly odd light.