“Kira Jordan had been born three years after a great plague that had wiped out forty percent of Earth's population. Following the plague many of the survivors had begun to develop psi-abilities. Earth was dying. Those who were determined to have strong psi powers got a free ticket to Offworld, a new start in a better place. Though Kira could sense a person's true nature through touch and the "flexing" of her mind, hers were considered to be lesser abilities. Only if she had great wealth would she now be able to attain her dream to go Offworld. As things stood that was not very likely.
Kira had not felt the need to go when her family had been alive but her father, mother and sister had all been murdered one night seven years ago while she'd hidden under her bed in a dark locked room. She alone had been spared but her life had changed forever. She'd done what she had to in order to survive, picking pockets, shoplifting, she'd even once thought to sell her body, but had thought better of it after one dangerous encounter. She also had a debilitating fear of the dark.
Imagine her shock when one minute she is breathing hard in a nearly abandoned mall after lifting a pair of sneakers and the next finding herself chained to the wall in pitch blackness beside a convicted mass murder!
Rogan Ellis had been falsely convicted nine counts of first-degree murder, but claimed to be a bad man nonetheless. The two find themselves to be partnered in a sick top secret reality game called the Countdown where the players either survived the challenges or faced a sudden and brutal death. Subscribers had special implants imbedding in their skulls in order to watch these live events. Kira and Rogan had implants in their heads as well which stipulated that must stay within ninety feet of each other at all times or die. The were stuck with each other for the duration.
Kira has no idea why she has been recruited for the game other than the fact that she's alone in the world. She had no sympathy for murders after what had happened to her family but she isn't read to die yet either. Three, two, one go! The countdown begins and the pair has only so much time to complete each of six levels. The odds of survival are slim, only one had ever succeeded to win all levels.
Kira's survival skills made her scrappier than one might expect. The pair survives several levels due to Kira's quick thinking and deductive reasoning. It becomes increasingly obvious that Rogan knows more about what is happening to them than he is willing to tell her. When she finds out who owns the company that produces the Countdown she knows why. But why had Kira been chosen for the game? She was little more than a petty thief.
Kira's psi skills reveal that Rogan is innocent of the murders and there's nothing like a life or death to situation to accelerate a relationship between two people. Before long the two are deeply attracted to each other by more than just their implants. But will they survive? If they find a way to escape certain death will they find a way to end the game or just go their separate ways?
This story was perfect for a first person point of view. The reader actually lives the game, with all of its tension through Kira herself. I found myself out of breath more than once. For an exciting and suspenseful romantic futuristic thriller, I highly recommend COUNTDOWN.~ Reviewed for PNR Reviews”