Armed & Dangerous (Cut & Run #5)

Title: Armed & Dangerous (Cut & Run #5)
Author: Abigail Roux
Cover Artist: Mara McKennen
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Amazon:
Genre: Contemporary M/M, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Novel/330 PDF pages/103 K words
Rating: 5+ stars out of 5, DIK

Review Summary:  Set against a high octane, nail biting, hang-on-to-the-seat-of-your-pants murder mystery and action/adventure, this book is aptly named as our heroes try to stay ahead of their prisoner and a savvy and cunning master manipulator who takes no prisoners.

THE BLURB

Left alone in Baltimore after his unpredictable lover bails, Special Agent Zane Garrett takes his frustration out on everything in his path until he is ordered to Chicago to back up an undercover operative. When he gets there, though, he finds himself face to face with his wayward partner, Special Agent Ty Grady. They have to deal with the uncertainty lingering between them while they work to retrieve their intended mark, a retired hit man and CIA wet-works operative named Julian Cross.

Ty, once a Marine and now an FBI hotshot, has a penchant for being unpredictable, a trait Zane can vouch for. Zane is a man who once lived for his job but has come to realize his heartbreaking past doesn’t have to overshadow his future. They’re partners, friends, lovers, and the go-to team for unusual cases. With Cross and his innocuous boyfriend, Cameron Jacobs, in tow, Ty and Zane must navigate the obstacles of a cross-country trek, including TSA pat-downs, blizzards, their uncooperative prisoners, CIA kill teams, a desperate lack of sleep and caffeine, and each other. Ty and Zane are determined to get Julian Cross to DC in one piece, but it’s starting to look like it might be the last thing they do

THE REVIEW

Whenever I pick up a new book in this series I lower my expectations and tell myself not to assume it will live up to the previous stories, which were all standouts for me. This time I was more apprehensive because, for the first time, Abigail Roux was flying solo and I didn’t know how Special Agent Zane Garrett’s character, previously written by Madeleine Urban, would turn out. I’m happy to say that my fears were groundless as I LOVED Armed & Dangerous just as much as the other stories and I thought that it was a fine piece of writing, possibly Abigail’s best work. With regard to Zane, there were a few differences in his characterization – while he’s just as complex and flawed as before, his vulnerability about his feelings for his partner was very evident throughout the book, but he seemed tougher and more resolute although I thought he was a lot more fun.

The first thing I noticed was how romantic the first couple of chapters were compared to Fish & Chips and Divide & Conquer. There were many public displays of affection by Ty (perhaps he was trying to apologise to Zane for leaving him) and expressions of love between the MCs that I rarely saw before. The tenderness when they were in bed was so palpable that it was like a living thing. A few of the love scenes were filled with what I would call an uncharacteristically desperate closeness, which would make sense because this book started only a few days after Ty left at the end of Divide & Conquer, so Zane’s feelings were still raw and he was emotionally bereft.

Although there was no place Zane wanted to be other than in Ty’s arms, he also wanted answers, and Ty tried desperately to make Zane understand why at times he had no control over his actions which would seem irrational to everyone but himself. Here is their first attempt to discuss what happened:

“You just left,” Zane said, and he made no effort to hide his upset.

Ty glanced around the terminal, then looked back at Zane and flopped his hands.
“I had to. I don’t know how to explain it; it’s just sometimes it feels like… like the world is shrinking around me. Like if I don’t get out and away that it’ll catch me and crush me. And I know that sounds stupid, but it’s a real feeling and I panic. I woke up that morning and I just had to go.

“Next time …. next time I need to go, will you go with me?”

“I love you. I will always be yours, Zane — no matter where I am or where you are. I promise you that.”

Zane’s response – “You grovel pretty damn well”

Ty has always been my favourite MC in this series and Armed & Dangerous reinforced my affection for him because he’s so out of control, with a myriad of serious emotional issues that he can’t talk about regardless how much he wants to. Zane’s insecurities about whether Ty will stay this time are slowly forcing these issues to the fore because if they didn’t repair their personal relationship they would have to move on. Ty is always dangerous and unpredictable, never at ease, while Zane is his polar opposite – unflappable and in control, except when Ty is injured.

This fifth book was a turning point and a major milestone in the series which was at the stage where it was either going to be memorable or stagnate, and the author made a bold move by giving readers never-before-seen insights into Zane’s and Ty’s psyche and emotions.

Julian Cross and Cameron Jacobs from Warrior’s Cross return as an integral element of the plot. Ty and Zane are dispatched by Assistant Director Burns to find Julian and bring him back to Washington, by force, so that he could save one of Burn’s CIA friends and a former Marine Corps buddy who was accused of murdering many of his colleagues. However, someone is determined that Julian will never reach D.C., and murder and mayhem ensue. Ty and Zane will have to stay ahead of everyone who is intent on murdering Cross, and deliver their prisoner alive to Burns.

I thought that the mystery was well executed and the take-down of the perpetrator was exciting as well as an adrenaline rush. I always knew that Abigail Roux was a good writer but I didn’t realize until this book how well she layers her characters and scenes. Here she leads her readers down several paths to confound them and preserve the mystery until the big reveal.

I have read many books where the characters evolve and grow and this growth is very evident in Armed & Dangerous as Ty and Zane make adjustments in their relationship that are sure to cause ripples in the future. The love between them is like a beacon to which they are irresistibly drawn, and most of Zane’s fears about Ty’s commitment to him are laid to rest as secrets are revealed about what makes Ty the way he is – flawed, restless, driven, always looking in the rear view mirror, short on trust, but loyal to a fault to those who have earned his trust. But maybe some secrets should remain buried.

The characterizations in this story are impeccably drawn and the writing is top notch. There were many highlights but for me one of the standouts was Ty vs Julian Cross. The constant power plays between them to see who would blink first exhausted me. Ty and Cross had so many common personality traits they rubbed each other the wrong way throughout the story, but in the end there was a grudging respect as they went through hell together and came out still standing and breathing. One pairing I still don’t get 3 years later is Julian and his lover Cameron, even though Cameron is a lot less whiny and a little more assertive in A & D. I also couldn’t figure out why Ty and Zane kept referring to Cameron as “the kid” – he’s their age, I think – maybe it’s a size thing!. :)

There were countless funny lines in the book, even stoic Julian got into the action after one of his bouts with Ty:

“Agent Grady just needed a cuddle. And possibly a piece of my spleen.”

For my money, the success of this plot is due mainly to the author’s brilliant decision to pit Ty and Zane (well mostly Ty) :) against Julian Cross, a charismatic and tough retired killer who challenged them at every turn. Adding to this strategy are the other characters who return, heightening the excitement and increasing the complexity of the story: Ty’s brother Deuce, Julian’s right hand man Preston who is really hot, :) Ty’s former Recon buddy Nick who is still in love with him, and Blake – Julian’s friend and former partner in crime. I have to hand it to Ms Roux, she sure knows how to put her characters through the wringer and I’m not talking about their emotions. If you think that the tone of this book seems different after you read it, IMO that’s because the author focused a lot more on the evolving relationship between Ty and Zane than in past stories.

My somewhat biased opinion of Armed & Dangerous goes like this: A believable plot; Ty and Zane at their absolute best; an incredibly smart perpetrator who is always one step ahead and will do everything he can, including committing multiple murders, to eliminate the one person who could put him behind bars forever; a charming, suave, enigmatic, street smart former hit man who gave the impression of always being in control of the situation despite being handcuffed during most of the book; a supporting cast of characters who almost steal the show seemingly effortlessly; two vicious cats that were Julian’s revenge on Ty; and a great ending with fireworks.

A worthy sequel to Divide & Conquer.

Highly recommended.

**************

Bring on Book no. 6 – Stars & Stripes. Here’s a preliminary blurb:

Stars & Stripes Prototype cover

Special Agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett have managed the impossible; a few months of peace and quiet. After nearly a year of personal and professional turmoil, things have finally settled down. They’re living together with no conflict, their work is going smoothly, and they’re both happy, healthy, and home every night before dark. Anyone who knows them well knows it couldn’t possibly last.

When an emergency call from home upsets the balance of their carefully arranged world, Ty and Zane find themselves dealing with family drama, a perplexing crime, and a helpless victim to save before time runs out. From the mountains of West Virginia to a remote ranch in Texas that harbors more than just Zane’s past, Ty and Zane must face their fears to overcome an unlikely enemy.

 

122 comments

  • First, thanks Wave for the excellent review. I just finished reading it for a second time — yeah, I essentially stayed up all night and didn’t work today :) — and here is what I think (in a Special Short Review by Aunt Lynn):

    Like Wave, I was a little worried because this is by far my most favoritist writing team out there and I hoped that the story — and Zane’s character — would not suffer without Madeleine. Not because Abigail isn’t an excellent solo writer — According to Hoyle was one of my top reads last year — just because they are so good together. I needn’t have been concerned as I loved it and think it absolutely deserves 5+ stars.

    I was also a little worried about the crossover with Warrior’s Cross as it is not my most favorite book by my most favoritist writing team. I know I rated it at 4.75 stars back when I reviewed it, but doing a re-read two and a half years later in prep for consuming A&D, I think I don’t like it as much now as I did then. I am not sure what Julian, who I really like, saw in whiny Cameron, but as Wave said to me recently, maybe opposites do attract. I’d probably rate it somewhere in the 4.25/4.5 region now. Anyway, I was happy that, although those two are a huge part of the plot and we are in their heads some, this story is very much about Zane and Ty. And it helped that Cam was better for me here.

    I liked the plot and execution and pace; the twist with the baddy; the power play and interaction between Ty and Julian (who are very much alike and it was hilarious watching them dig and poke at one another); visiting with Deuce and Julian’s Maine Coons again; the progress and growth Ty and Zane make both in their relationship and inside themselves; that there wasn’t a cliffhanger ending.

    I am happy Abigail didn’t drag out the reunion between our heroes…BUT, I did have one small niggle and while it did not effect my overall enjoyment, it was there for me even after the second read (I actually re-read it specifically to see if my opinion changed). I also know that I will probably be in the minority by saying this, but their “voices” in the reunion, which spans about two chapters, felt off to me — too romantic and mushy and out of character in some ways. I realize that they are in a different place now — more honest with themselves and each other — but I kept thinking “this doesn’t sound like them.” It wasn’t terrible, and in another story with other characters, I wouldn’t even have blinked at it, but they seemed too…soft. I was concerned that it would set the tone for the rest of the story, but after that (beginning with chapter 4), all was well again. It may be just me and, like I said, not everyone will agree with me — if anyone does at all (all of you who cried “More romance and passion please!!” get your wish!).

    One last thing: I think the series is going super well and am looking forward to Stars & Stripes, but I hope that Abigail knows when to stop while she is still on top. I don’t mean that in any way other than I’ve lived through series that jumped the shark three, four, five books prior to the last installment and it ruined the whole package for me in some ways. I want to love this series forever, not look back on it and think “she should have stopped at book X.” Just saying…

    • Hi Lynn

      Thank you for this and I agree with what you said about the amount of “love and togetherness” between Ty and Zane in the beginning chapters of A & D. I believe I mentioned this to you when I was re-reading the book for review, although to me it didn’t seem to be over the top.

      On reflection, I think this could have been a deliberate strategy on the author’s part to appease the many disappointed readers at the end of Divide & Conquer when Ty left and Zane was devastated. I know some fans felt betrayed by the cliffhanger ending, and a few of them weren’t planning to continue with the series after D & C because they wanted their heroes to be together forever.

      Whether that was the strategy for what I said in the review seemed to be “an uncharacteristically desperate closeness” between Ty & Zane, it didn’t continue beyond the early chapters in the book, and it was business as usual once Julian made his appearance.

      As I also said in the review, I just don’t get Cameron and Julian as a couple even with the “opposites attract” theme. Cameron just seems to be too dependent and whiny for someone like Julian, but other readers seem to like Cameron as a foil for Julian. I think that Julian’s best foil was Ty and pitting them against each other worked like a charm for me – I LOVED it and it didn’t detract anything from Zane’s prominence in the story. As a matter of fact I thought Zane eclipsed both Ty and Julian at different stages in the story.

      Last point. Like you, I firmly believe in ending a series on a high note and I could have lived with this book being the last one in the series, even though I would have hated to say goodbye to Ty & Zane. Josh Lanyon did it best with Adrien and Jake when he ended the Adrien English series just as everyone was clamoring for more, and this proved to be a stroke of genius.

      We all want more, more, more of Ty & Zane but I’m not sure how much more of a character arc is left for our guys and I would hate to see book after book with yet another adventure that had nothing to do with the character arc.

      As Sirius mentioned – one reviewer on Amazon had said something along the lines that the ending of D & C very neatly threw out all the character development Ty went through in the previous books just for plot related purposes. While I don’t agree entirely with this assessment, there is the danger when any series keeps on going after Books 4 or 5 that soon it will hit its “best by…” date. I really hope that doesn’t happen here before the series ends (and all series must end at some point) because I love the guys and the series, but for me the character arc is extremely important and I would hate to see it compromised. We’re both huge fans of this series so I’m sure you can appreciate where I’m coming from.

      Now that we’ve both analyzed the series I’m off now to read the highlights of A & D with a glass of red and I’m sending you a virtual glass. 😆

    • Lynn, I have to agree with you on “too romantic and mushy” point. I think that truly tender moments between them throughout the series were so precious because they were so rare. I don’t mind much, because, like you said, it was toned down later on.

      I am one of those people who never thought Cameron was whiny, primarily because every normal person would come across that way compared to Julian. I think they are perfect together. ^^ Therefore, I loved, loved, loved seeing them here. Ty & Julian were simply hilarious together. And, yes, the series is going super well, so I trust Abigail to know when to pull the plug. But, there are so many things we can still look forward to with these guys.

  • I just finished it and I knew there is a reason I could buy a book without even reading Lynn’s review when she was reviewing regularly :), I agree with most of what she said. I mean for me the beginning was fine, precisely because of what Wave said – the ending of last book as I mentioned previously annoyed me very very much. However under different circumstances I would have agreed with that part as well. Exciting, fun. Funny, OMG so funny, yes Jullian and Ty against each other were hysterical. And Cameron was better than in their book. National Lampoon Vacation? LOL

    But growling hungry kittens absolutely killed me.

    And yes, Wave, I thought Lanyon ended his series on a perfect note, I hope the same would be for these series – it is exactly because of what Lynn said – I want to love them forever as well.

    • You got your romance with a capital ‘R’ Sirius after D & C, and I’m happy you loved A & D. 😀

      I absolutely loved Julian’s kittens and he got his perfect revenge on Ty. 😆

      • Oh yes, perfect revenge indeed. I may go and buy a paperback after all – I have first three in paperback but not the last one, but then I may have to get a full set lol.

  • I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I didn’t really doubt that Ms Roux could pull it off on her own. No, my concern was with the Julian angle. When I read Warrior’s Cross two years ago, I thought it was okay at best. By the time Fish & Chips came along, I actually mentioned to my friend Marilyn that WC seemed like a prototype for the C&R series. To see an inferior product tied in with what I consider one of the best M/M series out there was disturbing. But the execution was brilliant. I still don’t care about Julian, but I did find him to be a hilarious foil for Ty. Cameron was sweet and funny.

    Wave, I agree with you and Lynn about the mushy tone of the reunion, but it worked out alright in the end. Of course, I wasn’t one of those who was ready to quit the series because Ty left. It seemed to fit his character, to me. He’s always been sort of a lone wolf, so I could definitely see where that much closeness that “fast” caused him to need time away. I think Ms Roux explained that well in this book.

    I read somewhere that there are 9 books planned in the series. I had thought the original plan was 7. In any case, so long as the characters keep growing, I’m in for the long haul. But, yeah, I don’t want to think “she should have stopped at book X” either. It’s a natural concern, I think. But then I’m one who doesn’t want to see another Adrien English piece either. As much as I have questions about how Adrien and Jake worked everything out, I’d rather not spoil the previous works with an unnecessary wrap up.

    Right, back on topic. This is the first time in a long time that I’ve actually specifically set aside the day to read a book. I’m very glad I did. Definitely a 5+. I’m eagerly awaiting Stars & Stripes, hoping we get to learn more about Zane.

    Oh, and a few of my favorite moments? Hoarder, Little Os, and Glock. Literal laugh out loud moments.

    • Hi Buda

      Thank you for this lovely commentary. :) I miss your input into some of my favourite series.

      You said you had heard that between 7 – 9 books were originally planned for this series. Personally I hope we don’t get to 9 books for many reasons. The main one being that there’s the real risk of turning fans off when/if an author decides to keep writing a series beyond book 4. We’re at book 5 now (where most series end), with book 6 being released shortly.

      One of the important elements of successful series, apart from the writing and main characters, is the fans’ anticipation of the next book. Hunkering down to wait more than a year to read about our favourite MCs in a new adventure while re-reading the previous stories is a time honoured series tradition. This won’t happen here because many fans of this series will not have read A & D when S & S hits the publisher’s shelves.

      I hope the quality remains intact, and while I see no reason why it shouldn’t, I do have concerns regarding future stories in any series that may be at books 5 or 6, if production keeps on going. I may be a lone voice here but I am, above all, a fan of this series and I hope that my anticipation of the next story won’t be lessened if I know it’s just around the corner.

      Television has taught us a lot about ending a series while there’s still an important tale to tell about the characters, but many shows have gone out with a whimper rather than a bang because they forgot this lesson. A few examples are the last episodes of Star Trek (the original series that only lasted 3 years but had a lasting effect on many fans’ psyches), Seinfeld, and the Sopranos. I don’t think you need more examples if you ever watched these series, but you were probably too young to remember. :)

      Oh, and a few of my favorite moments? Hoarder, Little Os, and Glock. Literal laugh out loud moments.

      I so wanted to include a quote about the Little O’s but the review was already way longer than it should have been. I cracked up about the same things you did and I was also happy that Zane’s ability to come up with puns at the most inopportune times remained intact. :)

      Zane has always been the most private of the two MCs and I’m looking forward with great anticipation to learning more about his backstory. After that, I don’t know what else there would be to tell about our heroes that would be substantive enough to take the series to book 9. However, I’ll withhold my thoughts until after I read S & S.

      A & D was a most excellent adventure and despite the “romantic mushiness” of the first 2 – 3 chapters it turned out great – a lot better than I expected.

      Despite my concerns above about the character arc I’m trusting Abigail to know when to call it quits. So far she hasn’t betrayed that trust.

    • Hiya Buda. My concerns around Madeleine not being involved had really nothing to do with Abigail (I realized that I may have implied otherwise and I qualified this in my comment above); I guess I was just worried that their combined voices made the series what it was so far and maybe it would change enough with just one of them to be problematic for me. As I said, I should not have worried as Abigail did a fabulous job and is an excellent author.

      I, too, heard the 7-9 books thing, and that is what I should really worry about (well, that and the pacing of releases). I think of series where there are 10, 12, 15 books and honestly, every time a new one comes out I kinda feel like “Oh no, not another one,” especially if they aren’t so fabulous. I’ll reserve judgment until I read Stars & Stripes, but I kinda wish/hope that will be it. I’m also in for as long as these books are good and there is progress and growth, but I, like Wave, wonder how much arc is left. And I agree with her that the timing of the release for Stars & Stripes may be too soon (I am of the opinion that series — especially ones made up of lengthy novels — should take at least six months, if not a year or more, in between installments), and added to that is my concern that the writing may suffer by going so quickly. Abigail may be able to pull it off, but I am just a little worried is all. Again, I’ll reserve judgment until I see it. As long as this series ends on a high note, I’ll be satisfied.

    • Yes I do Amy but I can’t break the news. :) However, if you check out Abigail’s site on Monday she will post the date and a contest. :) Let’s just say it’s A LOT earlier than you may think. 😀

      • You can find the answer if you search for it! I found the release date on Goodreads, along with the book info on Riptide Pub’s website :) (assuming it is correct)

  • Okay Wave…I am finished!
    Here is my review from GRs.

    **there are spoilers in my review**

    I haven’t stopped smiling since Friday(hubby asked if I was still on my painkillers), and now I want Stars & Stripes!

    This was the book that a lot of fans wanted. Me I loved D&C, the angst whore that I am loved every minute it of, yes even Nick and the kiss so nothing could make me not like A&D.

    This one was awesome for the character growth….I could not believe there were actually sharing their pasts with each other, they have come a long way from C&R and that is what every series should be like. We got Ty sharing his first love David(who I would love to stir up some shit in future books, I know I’m getting the evil eye from some right now(Morgana))and Ava, who he wasn’t in love with but was going to marry anyway. I totally loved the emotional stuff between Ty and Zane in this book it felt very real to me. The SEX was WOW off the charts and the ILY’s saying it every chance they could was just freakin lovely. I’m not big on overly sappy shit in my books but the sap was perfect in this book!

    Cam and Julian- I really liked WC so having these two in the book was great. I actually liked Cam more then Julian in WC and I kind of felt the same in A&D…don’t get me wrong Julian is funny and the banter between him and Ty was a hoot but there is something about Cam that makes me love him. And Preston, heehee Preston….Preston was my absolute fave in WC and when we learned that him and Ty “KNEW” each other, yep I admit I had some tingles going on.

    Deuce- YAY, he’s going to be a daddy!! I’m still laughing at the whole trying to get the tinfoil off the door handle thing.

    Nick- Oh Nick..I liked you in D&C and now I love you. What a great friend, drop everything to help Ty. And yes I admit I needed to get the kleenex when he told Zane about when he and Ty were POWs. I think Zane had a right to hit him and was actually shocked that he didn’t, aww our Zane growing up.

    I have always been Team Ty through out the books and still am but there was something about Zane that make me sit up and think hmmmm I may be jumping on the Zane train. For me, Zane was always the guy that didn’t care about anything, he always made me think that yeah he liked Ty and was glad they were together but if they weren’t no big deal….but that change in this book and I liked it.

    I loved this book….I actually took my time and soaked up every word and was not bored for one single second!

    • Hi Jaime

      Thank you for coming back and sharing your review of A & D. :)

      I had to write a review that was free of spoilers or everyone would have had my head, but I do agree with you about some of the scenes you quoted. 😮

      I’m not big on overly sappy shit in my books but the sap was perfect in this book!

      I, too, loved the tenderness in this book even though a few readers felt it was too much, and not really consistent with Ty’s and Zane’s characterizations. I think that after all that the fans went through at the end of Divide & Conquer Abi might have decided that she had to bring ’em back into the fold, or she would have had a mutiny on her hands. Not that any author should listen to the fans and it’s usually a better product if they follow their muse. While the cliffhanger at the end of D & C didn’t bother me because the blurb for A & D which I posted at the time made it clear that this was just a temporary hiatus on Ty’s part, people were still mad at having to wait for the resolution of the relationship in A & D.

      I really liked the way that Zane’s character evolved in this book and while he might not ring true 100% to some readers, it worked for me. Ty needed to do some serious groveling and Zane had to take it while Ty was working hard to be forgiven. :blush: I thought those scenes in the first 2 or 3 chapters were really hot and I’ve read them a few times just to soak them in. 😎

      I think what some fans regard as too much “romance” in the book is simply a matter of personal preference and there’s nothing wrong with that. Many times I disagree with other readers about the amount of sex in a book, for example, and I’m usually the only one who wants more plot and less sex and everyone else wants to slap me. :)

      You’re absolutely right — Zane now has equal status with Ty for me (although I still have a very soft spot for Ty because of what he want through in his black ops days). Nick is THE MAN, being there for Ty, and while some fans hated The Kiss, I think it was a small thing considering all that he has done for Ty.

      I’m not as in love with Cam as you but he does have a few redeeming features in A & D. I thought he was too whiny before but maybe Abi decided to give him a pair. 😆 I really liked Julian and still do. He was the best foil for Ty in this book as an antagonist and that pairing was inspired.

      I could go on all day about this book but I think you get what I left unsaid.

      Great job Jaime.

  • One question — when Ty has his new trench coat and is digging around for Zane’s gift — what was the gift? Was this just a loose end? I thought it might have been a t-shirt, but later Ty talks about how Zane can borrow the shirt from him?

    • Zane’s gift was very significant and I believe he bought it for Ty at the end of Fish & Chips, but never gave it to him. *hint* It was not a t-shirt. :) I don’t want to give out any more spoilers for those fans who still haven’t read A & D, so you will have to read the book again to figure out its importance. 😀

    • I’m not referring to the gift that Zane bought for Ty. I’m referring to the one Ty references early on in the book (in Ch. 2 of A & D) when he was digging around in his new trench coat and couldn’t find it in all the pockets (while at the airport). I don’t think we ever learn what that was?

      • Hi Jillian. Wave asked me to address your question. The short answer is that the gift he bought Zane never makes an appearance, and the reader never finds out what it was. That’s all I can tell you!

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