Death and the Devil: Why the Devil Stalks Death – L.J. Hayward
Jack Reardon uncovers secrets for a living, and the Meta-State spy is pretty good at it. Or rather he thought so until he met Ethan Blade—assassin, warrior, enigma. The unlikely pair have decided to give living together a shot, but Jack’s not entirely certain what he’s gotten himself into—or exactly who he’s in it with.
Jack’s worries are compounded when he’s assigned to a police strike force hunting a serial killer. With each new puzzle piece, Jack considers the true nature of a serial killer—and how similar it is to an assassin. To one particular assassin who’s having trouble adjusting to retirement. Jack’s unsure how to help Ethan—or if he even can.
When the killer strikes close to home, Jack must race against the clock to stop another murder, despite the price someone has put on his head. Could the matters be connected? Is a certain assassin at the centre of both? Surrounded by killers, the only one Jack wants near disappears, leaving Jack drowning in secrets. He’ll have to do what he does best—unravel the secrets, including Ethan’s—to stop the killer and save the life he and Ethan have only just begun to build.
Child abuse and child sexual abuse in a character’s history and not depicted directly on the page.
Back in 2018, the Death and the Devil series exploded in the MM romance scene in the most epic way, bringing us one of the most beloved characters of the genre. The cinnamon roll assassin, Ethan Blade.
I love his character so much. I vowed to name my firstborn after him. I even got goosebumps just anticipating the next installments’ releases. I also promised myself to patiently wait for the audiobooks no matter how long it took just for the sheer pleasure of hearing his character speak.
And here we are, finally, with the complete audiobooks!!!
With a magnificent opener in Where Death Meets the Devil, my expectations of Why the Devil Stalks Death were sky-high, so the last thing I expected was to be…bored. Because it pains me greatly to admit it wasn’t the riveting one-sitter I wanted it to be.
This is because of how the story was written. In keeping with the 1st book’s style, the chapters alternated between past and present events, labeled “Before” and “After”. It made things pretty convoluted instead of suspenseful. The serial killer plot is better served by linear storytelling, which should trim down some of the more drawn-out drama.
But our boys are still their gloriously flawed selves, navigating a fragile relationship built on a connection that managed to be both tenuous and deep. Jack, from whom most of the story is told so far, is human enough to be affected by an ex-hookup-turned-co-worker’s incessant flirting but remains staunchly loyal to a difficult and all-too-frequently absent boyfriend.
Just like in the first book, Ethan comes and goes. His appearances are marked by mysterious bruises he refuses to tell Jack where he got them. The man has always been an enigma to all. Most of the things Jack, and us readers, know about the assassin are gathered from meager crumbs thrown our way. So I’m thrilled to see major reveals on his past here. I’m also sad, but not surprised, to learn it involved child abuse and bullying.
Ethan’s character development comes from his involvement with Jack. While I speak of Jack being human as him being vulnerable and hurting (being an ass, really), cold and deadly Ethan being human is him being this completely endearing child-like creature who adores animals, reads action thrillers, wears socks to bed, names his cars after women and goes to zen mode when driving at ridiculously fast speeds. Ethan being human is a bomb detonating inside Jack’s chest. I was blown into smithereens right there with him!
Why the Devil Stalks Death brought Jack and Ethan closer in more ways than one in a complicated web of secrets, sex, serial murders, espionage and siblings. The storytelling might be confusing but the book packed enough intrigue, sizzle, and danger to carry me over this hurdle into that spectacular third arc! It’s all bullets, knives, car stunts, edge-of-your seat assassin vs. assassin action in a fucked up family reunion of killers. I live for every death-defying moment of it!
And our boys are at a happier place. For now. We’ll see what havoc the 3rd book brings. And I stand by this, Death and the Devil is the next mega-blockbuster action franchise, if only Hollywood has the balls to bring it to screen!
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
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