Snake Skin, Lucy Guardino FBI Thriller #1 by CJ Lyons: Book Review

Stars: 3.5/5

Blurb: Just your average Pittsburgh soccer mom, baking brownies and carrying a loaded forty-caliber Glock…

Lucille Teresa Guardino. A woman of many identities. Lucille to her doting mother, Lulu to her devoted husband, Mom to her pre-teen daughter, Lucy to her friends, LT to her co-workers, and Supervisory Special Agent Guardino to the criminals she captures for the FBI’s Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement squad.

A loving mom and wife, dutiful daughter, consummate professional, and kick-ass federal agent, Lucy is living the perfect life.

Until the day she comes up against a predator more vicious and cunning than any she’s ever tackled before, one who forces Lucy to choose between the life of the young victim she is fighting to save and her own daughter’s….and Lucy’s dream life is shattered.

CJ Lyon’s first book in her Lucy Guardino series is edge-of-your-seat, real-life-needs-to-wait stuff. But, I have to break down the two elements that kept me engrossed.

First Lucy – a female main character, in an action-packed thriller and with a healthy, normal home life and all the normal problems that come with it – because of her job and not. In this regard, I think I enjoyed the book the most. Lucy is very good at what she does, but she’s also struggling to connect with her 12-year-old daughter Megan, and her husband as supportive as he is, is beginning to disrupt the normal balance of Lucy’s world by pointing out that she can’t always put her job before her kid and him.

But here’s the thing, it’s far better to read a character struggling with the good and the bad of her life than having her divorced or in the process of getting divorced to free her up for the action of the story. A husband and a kid are baggage when you’re trying to move the case and the action along, but Lyons manages to make Lucy’s part of both these worlds, giving readers a richer book (and series, hopefully) in the end.

Lucy is a non-nonsense, practical woman and that shines clearly when she has to deal with male colleagues and just her law enforcement colleagues in general – her focus is clear – her case, with the bureaucracy an unpleasant part of it. She knows how to read the men around her, highlighting the experience in her background, even if Lyons doesn’t get into at all. I also enjoyed Lucy’s no-nonsense way of handling another cop’s attraction on the case – she’s aware of it, but she loves her husband. That said, she’s not above using that attraction to her advantage.

So,  the plot. Lucy is an FBI agent, heading up a team, who together with other law enforcement agencies, work together to bring down the worst of the worst – her team is called the Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement squad, which should tell you all you need to know about the crimes she handles. And, from page 1, you’re introduced to her world because instead of explaining, Lyons takes the readers along with Lucy as she goes undercover on one of the cases she’s working. She’s pretending to have a four-year-old daughter available for ‘sale’ before going home and hugging her own kid silly.

The case in Snake Skin though is focused on young girl, Ashley, who is enticed to run away from home by a very astute, con artist and kidnapper. Lyons works in the perils of a teenager with unfettered access to the internet and parents who quite simply don’t care about her. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not abusive, but Ashley is something to be had and not a teenager with problems to her parents.

Lucy is brought in to head up the case, and soon enough finds out that the kidnapper is one of her own – an FBI agent. This is one time I don’t feel bad letting that cat out of the bag because the strength of Lyon’s writing is in her characters. The bad guy being an FBI agent is the least most important part of him for Lyon’s weaves a rich and disturbing background for him that takes you into his mindset, and makes you understand why and how he came to be the way her is.

The case is fast-paced, never slowing down and the characters of her squad, while numerous are written beautifully enough that you understand why this is a squad that works so well together and why they look up to Lucy as well.

There are characters that seem too by-the-book, like the reporter and the tech guy, which made me want to skim over their appearances, but in the end they’re just blips in an ultimately entertaining first novel.

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