Hamarsson & Dempsey: Conspiracy Theory – Elle Keaton
Years of grueling police work have left Niall Hamarsson jaded and disillusioned with life…although it’s likely he’s been that way all along. The last straw lands when the DA refuses to try a case Niall worked for years to bring to justice. Within hours he finds himself heading to the only place he’s ever been able to call home—a place he knows he doesn’t belong.
Mat Dempsey returned to Piedras Island after his father’s death. These days he’s Island County’s sheriff. He’s happy enough, even if moving home from San Francisco effectively forced him back into the closet. Mat’s well-ordered universe collapses when a local’s body is discovered floating in the cold waters of Hidden Harbor’s marina. All hell breaks loose in the community, and accusations fly…all coinciding with Niall Hamarsson’s return.Niall and Mat have a history, and it’s not one Mat’s proud of. He owes Niall an apology, even if it means getting down on his knees. However, Mat’s first priority is investigating the murder before his community tears itself apart and he may have to ask the aloof Niall Hamarsson for help.
Push apart, pull together, yes or no… The chemistry crackles between them but will the two men be able to put aside their pasts and embrace a future?
Hamarsson & Dempsey is a promising police procedural by new to me author Elle Keaton. The series is set in Piedras Island where everybody had their noses in everybody else’s business. While it is reminiscent of many mystery series, the first book, Conspiracy Theory, held its own.
First, the mystery had me guessing until the end. I liked how the various threads and mini-mysteries relate to the main plot. The pacing was good but the resolution was just okay. It left some things open for the next books.
The book also had a strong cast of secondary characters. As with many small town mysteries, it had its fair share of interesting eccentric town fixtures that will either serve as future victims, future perps, comic relief or mere annoyance. Chief of these are the town’s prominent families who were notorious for their bitter feuds.
The two main characters couldn’t be more different from each other. Both were likable in their own way. The book is character-driven and the two leads were very compelling. Hamarsson in particular has a backstory that you make you feel for the guy.
Hamarsson is of Viking descent and is built like one. He is anti-social with a miserly way of speaking as though each word cost him money. He has a troubled childhood and is the first to admit he is a not a good person. But the man had a rarely seen caring side that appeared when he became Fenrir’s human. The total number of sentences he used to explain the dog’s presence equaled the total number of the rest of sentences he spoke in the entire book. That’s how much he liked the dog.
Dempsey is the town sheriff. He is a serial do-gooder who takes his responsibilities to the entire town very seriously. He’s a genial guy who loves his mom. He’s really easy to like. Early on, he knew there were hidden depths to Hamarsson that were worth taking the time to explore.
The two men had mutual crushes on each other back in high school. Now face to face as grown ups, the attraction is still there. I liked how the slow-burn romance was built-up. I liked how it worked with the police procedural aspect. I even liked the cliffy ending because it felt right for the kind of thing they had at that moment.
Overall, Conspiracy Theory is a great series opener. It has characters you can root for, a mystery that kept you turning the page and a tight plot that made you exciting for what’s coming next. Highly recommended for those into stories of big, taciturn men with giant hairy dogs and small island sheriffs who couldn’t stay away.
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits