From the first chapter, when Houston airport ranger volunteer and veterinarian Dr. Stacy Broussard makes a grisly discovery, it’s clear “Deadly Encounter” will be another thrilling read from DiAnn Mills.

The first novel in her new FBI Task Force series is packed with action and adventure as her main characters uncover and attempt to solve a mystery that begins with murder, an injured dog, the dead man’s motorcycle and an armed drone equipped with a laser powerful enough to take down a 747.

Like her previous novels, “Deadly Encounter” (Tyndale Fiction, 2016) adds to the suspenseful story with a blossoming romance between Broussard and FBI Special Agent Alex LeBlanc, who is assigned to the case. Initially seeing a clear-cut case of domestic terrorism, the wary FBI agent begins to wonder if the bleeding-heart veterinarian was targeted as he starts to uncover connections between a string of incidents affecting his fellow Louisiana transplant.

It’s easy to get lost in the stories Mills weaves. Her characters are fully formed and emotional connections go beyond the surface, transporting the readers to her fictionalized version of Houston and bringing them along for the ride as the thrilling mystery is solved. While it’s easy to like the lead characters and their wariness to give in to mutual attraction, my favorite character is a 12-year-old genius named Whitt. All but abandoned by his deadbeat parents, the boy basically lives with his neighbor, Stacy, who gives him a job and a place in her heart. Some of the novel’s best passages involve Whitt’s too-smart-for-his-age dialogue as he struggles to understand the emotions he feels about his shattered family life. Not knowing how the story will unfold, you can’t help but root for Whitt and Stacy, hoping that they overcome obstacles so she is able to become the mother he so desperately needs, and that Alex will find a permanent place in both their lives.

While Alex and Stacy seem like polar opposites, their early discovery of shared Cajun heritage opens the door for a relationship to bloom. “People respond to loss, guilt and heart wrenching pain according to their personalities. Some dig deeper for strength to survive while others use those happenings as an excuse to justify inappropriate actions. Stacy and Alex are courageous survivors who strive to make the world a better place by using their backstory to fight for others. Although seemingly different, Stacy and Alex come together to find out who is hurting innocent people and why — no matter the cost,” Mills said.

While earlier works have focused on the FBI, Mills said she wanted to do something a little different with “Deadly Encounter,” showing how the FBI works with other agencies to keep Americans safe at home.

“While readers are immersed in story and living the lives of my characters, my desire is for readers to understand I’ll do whatever it takes to bring them a real story with real characters in real situations,” she said.

“Deadly Encounter” is inspired by real people. “My passion began at the FBI Citizens Academy a few years ago. There I met a woman who worked with animals and was involved as a volunteer with Houston’s Airport Rangers. She loved her role of patrolling the perimeter of the airport on horseback. The more I discovered about her volunteer position, the more I wanted to write a story about a woman who shared the same background and enthusiasm. She planted a seed for a story that refused to leave me alone,” Mills said.

The story won’t leave readers alone either. It was impossible to put down, as the twists and turns kept coming in the well-paced novel. It’s definitely worth getting wrapped up in this “Deadly Encounter.”

If this is your first encounter with DiAnn Mills, be sure to pick up her earlier novels along with the next FBI Task Force series novel “Deep Extraction,” which will be released in April. Mills said it delves into the world of Houston’s oil and gas business. “This book explores what happens when money and greed become the ruling power of a man’s life — and death.”

And Mills said she’s always interested to hear what readers think. You can connect with her and share in the adventure at www.diannmills.com.

Contact M. Clare Haefner at chaefner@kdhnews.com

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