Note: another long post so you can skip to the end for the tl:dr version if you want. looks like this is turning out to be a series review month
Bad Behavior was one of the best series I’ve read back in 2018. This gritty, partners to lovers, police procedural cemented L.A. Witt and Cari Z‘s status as one of the best writing duos for me. Just when I thought Andreas and Darren’s story was over, we get another awesome installment and a floofy floof short story.
This is a review of Books 5 and 5.5.
Bad Behavior: Protective Behavior – L.A. Witt & Cari Z
Detective Mark Thibedeau is perfectly happy doing his job in Internal Affairs and going home to his cat. Still, when his assistant wants to set him up on a blind date, he can’t help but be intrigued.
Dr. Ryan Campbell loves the frenetic pace of working in an emergency department. He likes his life and doesn’t need anyone. But that guy his colleague wants him to meet does sound pretty interesting.
It’s instant chemistry when they meet—and instant chaos.
That chaos isn’t just phone calls interrupting dates. When a patient comes into the ED rapidly bleeding out from a gunshot wound, Ryan suddenly finds himself in possession of evidence that could very well put two white cops in jail for killing an innocent black man in cold blood.
Not sure what else to do, Ryan takes the evidence to the only cop he can trust—Mark.
Now Mark is investigating a delicate case, and Ryan is a material witness, and putting their fledgling relationship on hold is the least of their problems. Dirty cops stalk Ryan and his colleagues. Higher-ups question Mark’s investigative integrity at every turn. Worse, he’s tugging at threads of a citywide systemic problem of cops getting away with racially motivated murder.
And there are cops with blood on their hands who will gladly kill to keep that system running.
CW: Racially motivated violence, white-cop-on-black civilian violence
This book is #5 in the Bad Behavior series, but can be read as a standalone.
I read in L.A. Witt‘s post somewhere that Protective Behavior began as series narrator Michael Ferraiuolo‘s suggestion. This book was a pleasant surprise. It’s a story I didn’t realize I wanted because I didn’t really pay that much attention to IA Detective Mark Thibedeau. After learning of its existence, I was like, oh yeah, about time we have a book about Internal Affairs cops.
We first met Mark in Book 1, Risky Behavior, as the IA detective who thought Andreas was a dirty cop. He and Andreas were both grumpy assholes who butt heads all the time. Andreas’ daughter Erin later worked as Mark’s assistant. She wrangled him into a blind date with a doctor friend, Ryan.
Mark and Ryan are two very busy men who had no lives outside work. They immediately hit it off but barely got around to their second date, let alone some smexy times, due to ongoing investigations and medical emergencies. They tried. Boy, they really tried but the call of duty always had impeccable bad timing.
I felt their initial meeting was, deliberately, a conventional blind date, perhaps as a reminder that they were really just ordinary people cockblocked by extraordinary circumstances.
Some time after they began dating, Mark found himself investigating a suspected murder of a black man by white cops. The more Mark uncovers, the more he realized this could very well be a systemic problem.
The case was brought to his attention by Ryan. The doctor was the one who attended the victim. The man handed him a recording of the incident as he lay dying . This makes Ryan a witness and thus off limits for any romantic endeavors. It also made him a target of the psycho cops who were looking to get rid of evidence.
I might have initially overlooked him before but the authors did a good job making Mark a likable character here. He’s not a flash and bang guy. He’s more of a solid, dependable, dogged determination gets the job done kind of guy. He goes home to a spoiled cat. A dead giveaway that this hardened detective is really a softie.
Ryan’s more of the same, albeit more playful and flirty. Right away, they understood the kind of high stress, demanding job the other man had. They made their relationship work despite those hurdles. I liked that they were kind of low-key compared to the flashier Andreas and Darren because it feels right to their story. I also appreciated that they were both in their 40s and this is not an age-gap romance.
The story is first and foremost, a police procedural. I really enjoyed this because it’s my first time to read a book that focuses on Internal Affairs. IA investigations are trickier than normal cases. Cops don’t snitch on other cops. Especially their partners.
The plot was well-written. It was easy to follow but still giving plenty of twists and turns that kept me at the edge of my seat. Any police procedural aficionado would love all the nitty gritty investigative stuff.
This is a very timely book that reflects real life events, specifically racism and Black Lives Matter. These issues were handled well. I read one review that says the story tries too hard to make a point. I did find some parts repetitive but not preachy.. All in all, gripping and relevant .
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bit
Bad Behavior: Cuddly Behavior – L.A. Witt & Cari Z
Detective Andreas Ruffner is less than thrilled when his husband and partner, Detective Darren Corliss, announces they’ll be cat-sitting for a couple of weeks. He’s even less pleased when he realizes the cat in question is a large grumpy thing with razor-sharp claws and no regard for personal space.
When Darren deploys the puppy dog eyes, though, Andreas is powerless to say no, so they’re on kitty detail… and despite his best efforts, Andreas is a sucker for the critter shedding all over his apartment and stealing his husband’s affection.
It’s only for two weeks. Plenty of time for the cat to get on his nerves, but not nearly enough for her to trick him into falling in love with her. Right?
This 15,000 word short story is Bad Behavior book 6, and is best read after Protective Behavior.
So I mentioned above that Mark goes home to his cat. The cat is Harley, a giant hairy ball of fluff with no regard for personal space. She jumped on an injured Mark and opened his stitches. So she was sent to live with Andreas and Darren for a couple of weeks while Mark recovers.
This short story is full of adorable cat antics and besotted humans. It is a demonstration of how cats can win over even the most anti-cat person. Witness grizzled detective Andreas being trained by the cunning Harley to become her personal seat cushion, much to the delight of his husband, Darren. Photographic evidence was promptly obtained for posterity.
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bit
Michael Ferraiuolo was right on the money when he suggested Mark’s book. Protective Behavior certainly added another dimension to the series by giving us a peek at the inner workings of the Internal Affairs Department. It is a solid police procedural tackling real life issues with a gentle, low-steam romance that goes perfectly well with the story’s vibe. Cuddly Behavior is the squishy cherry on top, a veritable catnip to all cat lovers.
Protective Behavior can be read as a standalone but why stop at one? Experience all the different ways to misbehave in the first four Bad Behavior books: Risky Behavior, Suspicious Behavior, Reckless Behavior and Romatic Behavior.
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This meme was created by Reading Marie. It’s a great meme because it’s nice and easy to do.
I found this tag on Chelle’s Book Ramblings . It’s simple and fun. I thought I would put my own spin on it and make it a weekly thing.
“First Line Fridays” is by Hoarding Books and is all about the first line of a current/upcoming read. Friday 56 is a meme hosted by Freda’s Voice, where you turn to page 56 (or 56%) in what you’re reading a find a snippet that jumps out at you. The idea to combine the two came from Kat @ Here There Be Dragons“
I found this meme on The Writerly Way. And I’m doing this on a Thursday just to be difficult.
Bad Behavior: Romantic Behavior – L.A. Witt & Cari Z
Detective Andreas Ruffner is no fool—he’s found a man who loves him, puts up with him, and has stuck with him through hell and back, and it’s time to put a ring on it. Darren Corliss is the love of his life, and he wants the whole world to know it.
Now the fun part—the wedding!
Well, after the not-so-fun part of planning the wedding in between dealing with overbearing and impossible-to-please family members. With future mothers-in-law driving them both up a wall, the guest list growing out of control, and the wedding getting ever more complicated, Darren and Andreas have to wonder if they’re in over their heads.
But they’re going to make it to the altar if it kills them … and at this rate, it just might.
Andreas finally found the nerve to put a ring on it but the process of getting through the preparations was as tough as one of their cases. As long as it ended up with him and Darren being married to each other, neither of them tried to complain. Everybody is happy for the couple and Emily is excited to be the flower girl but Andreas’ mother is another story.
I am ecstatic they’re making it official! After what L.A. Witt & Cari Z put them through last time, I would riot if this doesn’t end happily. Luckily Romantic Behavior gave the boys their much deserved happy ending.
4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away
Bad Behavior: Reckless Behavior – L.A. Witt & Cari Z
After too many years of putting his job first, Detective Andreas Ruffner is getting his priorities straight. He’s ready to spend some quality time with his adult kids, not to mention come clean about some things he should’ve told them a long time ago. And introduce them to his partner and boyfriend, Darren Corliss.
But in a heartbeat, a family dinner turns into Andreas’s worst nightmare. When the dust settles, one of his kids is hurt, and the other three have been abducted.
Andreas is going to find his kids, and nothing, not even a broken ankle, is going to stop him. Thank God for his sharp, level-headed partner … who has a crisis of his own pulling him away when Andreas needs him the most. As both men try to support—and lean on—each other, they get no closer to finding the kids. And the longer the children are missing, the less likely it is they’ll ever be found.
It started with Andreas and Darren having dinner with Andreas’ kids, Erin, Ben, Casey and Emily with Andreas introducing Darren as his boyfriend and dropping the HIV bomb. Ben took it well but Casey needed more time to process it. After dinner, the girls went for a bathroom break and Ben and Casey went to their car. Next thing Andreas heard were gunshots and a car crash, then his ex-girlfriend Lisa was panicking because the girls were missing.
From then on, the story went on a relentless pace that had me feeling exhausted for both Andreas and Darren. Andreas was still nursing the broken ankle he got from the previous case and he can barely walk. It didn’t stop him from taking the lead in the investigation because heaven help anyone who gets in his way.
This abduction case took all they got. Andreas and Darren barely had any sleep. The boys were pushed to their limits but even as tragedy struck they kept pushing back. Andreas would have probably lost it but Darren was his rock. The case highlighted how much they have come to mean to each other and how solid their relationship is. I love the Han Solo shoutout!
One good thing that came out of this was that their fellow cops rallied behind them albeit somewhat grudgingly since Andreas and Darren were still on their blacklist. Even Internal Affairs was moved.
Family bonds is a key theme in the book and even though the case was a nightmare, there remains a strong feeling of love, care, devotion and dry humor to lighten things up. Andreas’s family remained close and Andreas is friends with both his ex-wife and ex-girlfriend who in turn were both supportive of his relationship with Darren. Andreas kids were amazing and tough, especially Erin who, despite Andreas’ reputation, has endeared herself to everyone at the police station when she started working there as an intern. She gave them a much needed break on the case. I hope she follows her dad’s footsteps because she makes a good cop. Darren’s mom and stepdad also gave much needed support to everyone even though they themselves have to deal with grief. The main antagonist himself was motivated by familial ties.
Both Risky Behavior and Suspicious Behavior were awesome reads but Reckless Behavior stood out as being the most personally case the Andreas and Darren had dealt with. The boys suffered dead ends, setbacks and personal tragedies but throughout all these they remained strong. The execution of the plot was practically flawless, the characterization and writing were on point. Michael Ferraiuolo expertly wrung out every emotion from every word.The hopes and frustration, exhaustion and pain, the terror and suspense and finally the relief and peace. It was beautiful!
5 Stars – absolutely perfect
Bad Behavior: Suspicious Behavior – L.A. Witt & Cari Z
Detective Darren Corliss is hanging by a thread. In between recovering from a near-fatal wound and returning to work at a hostile precinct, he’s struggling to help care for his ailing brother. His partner and boyfriend, Detective Andreas Ruffner, wants to help, but doesn’t know how. And with his own family crises brewing, Andreas is spread almost as thin as Darren.
For cops, though, life takes a backseat to the job. When a stack of unsolved homicides drops into their laps, Andreas and Darren think they’re unrelated cold cases. But when a connection surfaces, they find themselves on the tail of a prolific serial killer who’s about to strike again.
Except they’ve got nothing. No leads. No suspects. Just a pile of circumstantial evidence and a whole lot of hunches. Time is running out to stop the next murder—and to pull themselves back from their breaking points.
Phew! Our boys can’t catch a break. What with the hostility from their peers, Asher’s rapidly worsening Alzheimer’s, Andreas’ family trouble and a serial killer on the loose.
Narrator Michael Ferraiuolo continued to impressed me with his delivery. He was not only reading, he was really acting. I love the small but effective touches he added, like the sniffling, the coughing, the little laughs. It gives an extra something to the narration. Really awesome!
This is another addicting case to follow and I liked L.A. Witt & Cari Z’s take on the serial killer trope. Usually, it takes the entire book to uncover who the serial killer is. In this case, they know who the killer is, they just had a devil of a time proving it. Their evidence were all circumstantial.
The case proved to be a very frustrating one. They were sure their main suspect was it but life threw them curve balls and red herrings which nearly broke Darren’s confidence. Ironically, it was Andreas who remained optimistic. Their strategy was out of the box and as was their way, involved bending the rules slightly. It was great to see Andreas and Darrin evolve into a power couple, both personally and as working partners. They have developed a sort of telepathic connection where each of them instinctively knew what the other was thinking. This kind of bond usually takes years to form but Andreas and Darrin just synced really well.
The climax was full of suspense and fraught with great danger that was compounded by the fact that the other detectives continued to hold grudges with Andreas and Darrin. Detective Paula Morris, Andreas’ loyal friend and one of the best characters of the series, played a crucial role.
Although the story was still written in dual POV, I think this was a slightly Darren-centric story. He had to deal with brother’s condition and the possibility that he too might have the gene. He was also the one making major conclusions on who the serial killer is. In addition, we get to know more of Andreas’ background and family life and witness Darren squeeing at Andreas interacting with his four year old daughter, Emily.
Suspicious Behavior, the second book of the Bad Behavior series, moved Andreas and Darren’s relationship forward, dealt with the repercussions of their first case and showed that they can handle cases outside narcotics.The workaholic pair were tenacious in their pursuit of case and weren’t afraid to get creative with the rules. It was only when they broke their bones were they forced to have that much needed break. Overall, the plot was gripping with cleverly written twists and turns and major arc and character developments all around.
Review of book 1, Bad Behavior series, Risky Behavior here.
4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away
Bad Behavior: Risky Behavior – L.A. Witt & Cari Z
It’s day one of Darren Corliss’s career as a detective, and not only has he been assigned a notoriously difficult partner, but the guy might also be a pill-popping dirty cop. Internal Affairs needs proof, and Darren gets to be their eyes and ears whether he wants to or not.
Detective Andreas Ruffner doesn’t play by the rules, and he doesn’t play well with others. With bodies piling up and a list of suspects who are way above his pay grade, the last thing he needs is a wet-behind-the-ears kid for a partner. Or babysitter. Not even if that partner is easy on the eyes.
As Darren gains Andreas’s hard-won trust, they both realize there’s more than just mutual suspicion simmering beneath the surface. But their investigation is heating up as quickly as their relationship, and Darren has no choice but to go along with Andreas’s unorthodox–and borderline unethical–methods. As IA puts the squeeze on Darren to give up the man he’s falling for, he has to wonder–is Andreas the only cop left in this town who isn’t dirty?
Declaring this week Bad Behavior Week because Andreas and Darren happened…
I didn’t expect to like Risky Behavior as much as I did. This is also my first listen to Michael Ferraiuolo and boy, did he knock it out of the park!
Majority of crime stories are solving serial killings, which I enjoy but then again, just how many serial killers are there in the US? On a refreshing note, Risky Behavior is about busting a drug gang whose connections go all the way to the top. Detective Andreas Ruffner thought himself a lone wolf out to take down this corruption. He was saddled with Darren Corliss, a rookie partner aka babysitter because Internal Affairs thinks he has something to hide.
Andreas is an asshole to most people. He trusts no-one. He has his reasons. Darren knows he has to earn that trust and though he was the younger of the two, he wasn’t a doormat. He was up for the challenge. The two didn’t get along at first. Both found the other attractive despite being at odds with each other on their first meeting but I love how L.A. WItt & Cari Z handled the development of their relationship. They had both characters playing it cool and most importantly, keeping it professional. Until they noticed the other one noticed. And then it slowly evolved into trust and a partnership, in both sense of the word, in a very convincing manner. It was so good I’m not even bothered by the almost 20 year age-gap.
The rest of the cast were great characters. Not all of them were likable but the combination of the authors characterization and Michael Ferraiuolo’s delivery made all the characters stand out. It reminded me of the cop shows I used to watch. I could imagine Bad Behavior as a drama series and the supporting cast would be those characters actors who always look familiar but you don’t know the names of.
Jamie Bamber as Detective Andreas Ruffner
Dean Geyer as Detective Darren Corliss
The case is one hell of a hook, keeping me glued to the story for hours. For this part alone, I would recommend the book to mystery/crime fiction lovers who might or might not be into MM. The case was complicated and challenging with widespread repercussions for the entire city. No wonder Andreas was willing to do everything to crack the case. Darren earned his stripes by quickly learning to play the game and sticking his neck out. The two men go against Internal Affairs and government authorities, and make unholy alliances with unlikely individuals. Riveting stuff!
Risky Behavior is a very well-written police procedural story with great characters and cunning twists and turns. Add to that the brilliant narration by Michael Ferraiuolo and you got yourself a winner!
Review of L.A. Witt books here.
4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away