Yes, eight chapters. I tend to read more when I'm dissatisfied. Sigh.
This one is impossible to keep spoiler-light. Suffice to say, everyone gets in major trouble and serious danger, the result of which is Graves being a jerk to Ash, Ash declaring his feelings for Cleo, Cleo making a tough personal choice, and Mauricio being abducted again.
Let's start with the good. That high-speed car chase scene (and the aftermath) was intense! Everyone is positioning for the final push; Andres will be going down! Cleo has grown on me. These chapters really showcase her drive and motivations, her convictions and internal struggle. She seems real, three-dimensional.
Now, let's talk about the stuff that left me feeling a type of way. First, I understand Cleo's mindset, I do. I think it's perfectly reasonable to walk away from a job that doesn't match your convictions, but her quitting abruptly felt unnecessary, a plot device and not a character development. Could she not quit after the situation is resolved? Sure, things aren't going well professionally, but has her being in law enforcement actually impeded anything she's done thus far? The way it's handled just struck the wrong note, for me.
Second, I know their friendship is contentious, but I haven't seen any spark between Ash and Cleo, nothing stronger than a general concern for the well-being of someone you used to know. He thinks she's beautiful and stubborn. She thinks he's a troublemaker but a good guy. They share one good memory of prom night. After 34 chapters, that's it. I'm supposed to be rooting for these two, but instead I just hope everyone lives and don't really care if they wind up together. Worse, I think the pairing is lackluster and forced.
Which brings me to point number three. Ash feels like a construct. He has a save the cat moment early on. He has character witnesses. He has humanizing sidekicks. All crafted to make him the Good Guy. He needs some flaws but not too bad, so he's a con but only to other cons. He blames himself for his tragic past, but we all know nothing is his fault, so it rings hollow when he says it is. Just like his "I love you" to Cleo. The only thing I believe about this character is the only thing his POV truly shows, and that's his love for his brother. Other than that and his scheming, there's just nothing for me to sink my teeth into. He's standard action-thriller hero and wants for some spontaneity in his script. I can tolerate prototypical secondary characters and antagonists (Andres, Graves, the Feds, and Prez et al to a lesser extent) but the protagonist?
So, yeah. Those are my thoughts and impressions going into the final stretch. Ten chapters to go. Will Andres successfully indoctrinate Mauricio? Will Ash and Cleo find him (again) in time? Can Prez help Ash bring down Andres once and for all?
Am I being too hard on the characters? Expecting too much?