Play Nice Review
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The thriller section of your local bookstore is filled with stories about hired assassins and people with deep, dark secrets. Sometimes, they make for an explosive read—the kind that will keep you up late at night, wondering how it will all end. At other times, though, you might find yourself skimming through the action, wondering when it will all end. Unfortunately, Play Nice by Gemma Halliday falls into the latter category.

Fifteen years ago, trained assassin Anya Danielovich faked her own death and went on the run. Since then, she’s lived a lonely, solitary life, moving from one city to the next whenever she feels that she’d stayed in one place for too long. Now, she’s Anna Smith from San Francisco. She works at an animal shelter, and her closest friends have four legs.

It’s been years since Anna left her former life behind, yet she still finds herself looking over her shoulder, waiting for the bullet that could come at any time. And, as it turns out, she’s not just paranoid. Anna’s former employers have managed to track her down—and they’ve hired Nick Dade to take care of the problem. But when someone else comes after Anna before Nick can finish the job, he finds himself working with his target to figure out who else wants her dead.

Play Nice is definitely loaded with action, constantly dodging the bullets of various trained assassins while racing through the streets of San Francisco. But, without an engaging story—or likeable, well-developed characters—it all seems rather run-of-the-mill.

Neither one of the main characters gets much development. We know that Anna was once an orphan turned killed—and that she now works with dogs and keeps to herself. While she’s not necessarily an unlikeable character (she has, after all, made an honest attempt to turn her life around), there’s simply not enough to her. The same is true of Dade, who’s little more than a shadow. He’s former military, and he kills for a living—though, since he’s supposed to be a good guy, he only takes jobs killing really bad people.

That, however, is all that readers are given. From there, we’re simply expected to like these characters and care about what happens to them—but it’s not that easy. Not only are the characters little more than vague stereotypes, but their story just doesn’t feel plausible. After all, it’s pretty hard to believe that someone who kills people for a living would care so much that someone else is after the same target that he’d decide to back out of his contract and work to protect his target instead. And when you pair weak characters and an unlikely plot, you end up with a novel that simply seems to go through the motions.

The book’s rather far-fetched ending appears to be setting up a new series—and, perhaps, as Halliday continues to develop her characters and their stories, it may be worth reading. But I doubt that I’ll be sticking around to find out.

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