Zero Hour: Ground Zero – Aimee Nicole Walker
Ground zero, noun: the center or origin of rapid, intense, or violent activity or change.
Heat, humidity, and homicide are things veteran detective Sawyer Key expects to encounter on his first day with the Savannah Police Department, but the hostile reception from his new partner catches him by surprise. Sawyer isn’t a stranger to heartache and recognizes that Royce Locke is a wounded man who’s reeling from a devastating loss. Relentless and patient in all things, Sawyer is determined to make the new partnership work.
Savannah, Georgia is known for her quirky people, oak trees draped in Spanish moss, and antebellum architecture. Beneath the Southern charm and hospitality, festering hatred and violence is soaring with the summer temperatures. Locke and Key find themselves at the epicenter when their first case involves the death of a former shock jock who appears to be the victim of vigilante justice.
Opposites in nearly every way, the two detectives set aside their differences to take back their city and restore law and order. From this reluctant truce, an intense attraction grows that will either tighten or shatter their tenuous bond. Falling for his partner spells inevitable disaster, but Sawyer’s always been a sucker for wounded things. Sawyer could be the key to the life Royce has always wanted, if he’s brave enough to trust him. The fuse is lit, the clock is running, and the zero hour is upon them. Tick tock.
Ground Zero is the first book in the Zero Hour series, which follows Locke and Key’s investigations and evolving relationship. Ground Zero has a happy-for-now ending with no cliffhanger. It contains mature language and sexual content intended for adults 18 and older.
“I mean, I want you to mourn me properly, but then I want you to find an epic love. Promise me right now, Sawyer.”
Sawyer’s husband, Victor, has passed away two year ago, leaving a hole in his life. After some scandal in his old precinct, he was recruited by the SPD and partnered with the notorious Royce Locke
Everyone knows Royce Locke is an asshole. He’s quite flirty with the ladies but gave the impression that he doesn’t really care. He just lost his old partner who’s also a close friend and so very not looking forward to his replacement. It was kind of funny how their co-workers all took bets on how long Sawyer would last (one day) because Locke lost no time antagonizing his new partner.
But Sawyer was no doormat. He’s not about to throw away his new job so he sassed him right back. I loved their banter! The chemistry and tension rolled off them like waves. All these while doing good work as detectives.
Sawyer also cannot resist strays and wounded souls. He took one look at Locke and knew a cry for help when he saw one.
The romance here started insta but evolved slowly. It first appeared that Locke was straight with his sexuality hinted as bi later on. I almost didn’t like him but I really liked how the story let the two men talk candidly about whatever issues they have, whether personal or work-related.
It wasn’t easy nor did the conversations came out smooth but I appreciated how petty misunderstandings were avoided by laying it all out in the open. It also lead the way to Locke finally taking a step forward and me connecting with him.
I would have paid good money to get inside his head too. He was a mystery himself. But seeing him through Sawyer’s eyes, we see how his walls come down bit by bit. Now and again, we catch glimpses of the ‘not asshole’ Locke. Somebody who’s vulnerable and grieving. A friend who took care of his late partner’s widow. A man who adores children. It made for a satisfying momentous moment when it was time for Locke to bare his soul.
Somehow this reminds me of Hazard & Somerset but written in Somers POV. I have the audiobook and Tristan James is the narrator. He used his Somers voice for Sawyer and his Hazard voice for Locke. The book is written entirely in Sawyer’s POV and his personality reminded me of Somers. Friendly, popular but with hurts aplenty.
One thing that sets this book apart from other law enforcement/police procedural romance, is that Locke and Key worked on multiple cases. Normally, the partners would be working just one major case, almost always a serial killing.
Working on different cases in one book is a more realistic depiction of police work. It also gave the story a slice-of-life feel to it. The cases were complicated and interesting. There is enough procedural work here to satisfy any fan of the genre.
This is a great opener. There’s just the right amount of mystery, suspense and romance. The HFN ending builds the anticipation for the next book. Right now, there is a future waiting to be explored and a promise waiting to be fulfilled. The two men just started their journey together. I can’t wait till they get there!
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits0
Tallowwood – N.R. Walker
Cold cases, murder, lies, and an unimaginable truth.
Sydney detective August Shaw has spent the last decade of work solving cold cases. Since the death of his boyfriend eight years ago, August works alone, lives alone, is alone — and that’s exactly how he likes it. His work is his entire life, and he’s convinced a string of unsolved cold-case suicides are linked to what could be Australia’s worst ever serial killer. Problem is, no one believes him.
Senior Constable Jacob Porter loves his life in the small town of Tallowwood in the middle of the rainforests in northern New South Wales. He runs summer camps for the local Indigenous kids, plays rugby with his mates, has a close family, and he’s the local LGBTQIA+ Liaison and the Indigenous Liaison Officer.
When human remains are found in the camping grounds at Tallowwood Reserve, Jake’s new case turns out to be linked to August’s cold cases, and Jake agrees they’re not suicides at all. With Jacob now firmly in August’s corner, they face one hurdle after another, even when more remains are found, they still can’t seem to gain ground.
But when the body of a fellow police officer turns up under the same MO, it can’t be ignored anymore. August and Jake must trace the untraceable before the killer takes his next victim or before he stops one of them, permanently.
Another beautiful masterpiece from N.R. Walker!
Tallowwood is intense, gripping and moving with just enough fluff to keep things from becoming too dark.
August Shaw is a cold case detective working on an 18-year old serial killing case that nobody takes seriously, mainly because the victims were gay. One of them was his boyfriend, Christopher, who he found dead in their bathtub 8 years ago. It was made to look like suicide like the other victims. But August knew Christopher wouldn’t take his own life.
August ‘wears his grief like an old coat‘. He’s drawn into himself, he’s socially awkward, an asshole to others and very, very determined to prove that what were ruled as suicides were actually murders. He’s almost to the point of obsession. It took a small town constable with a winning smile to shed light on a little known fact: the gritty detective could be so damn adorkable!
Jacob Porter is a senior constable in Tallowwood who contacted August in order to consult him with a case that might be related to the detective’s. Jacob is a cheerful, very likable person who’s also smart and very good at his job. He is a ray of sunshine with a side of bossy. You have no choice but to love him.
The two men discovered they worked well as a team. They go over case files, visit families of victims, open old wounds, and sought fresh perspectives for that much needed break in the case. While doing so, they bond over food, small town life, Scarlet the cat, and kookaburras.
The book treated its subject with appropriate gravity and depth. It talks about grief, loss, needing closure and giving oneself a chance to move on. Even with these weighty themes, the story didn’t feel too heavy. The author was able to inject humor with perfect timing. It done so naturally without ruining the profundity of the moment.
My heart went out to August. I could feel his grief and frustrations pouring off the page. He’s one of those characters who badly needs a hug. I loved how Jacob showed him simple acts of kindness that worked so effectively. He made him feel safe and cared for. The romance was appropriately slow-burn and one of the best of its kind out there.
Tallowwood is a complex, well-written police procedural. I liked how it focused 80% on the mystery while still delivering a wonderfully done second chance romance. Not only was the mystery hard to solve but people in high places were placing roadblocks whenever they could. I thoroughly enjoyed going through the nitty gritty of the investigation. I was in the dark until the author dropped the big hints.
I loved how the author built up the suspense and brought everything together in an explosive climax. All loose ends were resolved completely and we were even gifted with a delightful epilogue. I couldn’t ask for a better ending.
This is the kind of book you’ll want to read non-stop from start to finish. I would have done so if not for the need to sleep. I recommend reading this on a weekend so you could binge. And remember to always watch the kookaburras.
5 Stars – absolutely perfect0
Cold Case Psychic: Dead Reckoning – Pandora Pine
When the spirit of a young male prostitute comes to psychic Tennyson Grimm asking him to find the john who brutally murdered him, Tennyson can’t say no. Only able to communicate through the use of images, rather than words, getting any information out of the young man is frustrating and slow going.
Cold Case Detective Ronan O’Mara has been on a roll solving cases since he and Tennyson last teamed up to solve the Michael Frye case. Unfortunately, the red-hot romance that had blossomed between them during that investigation is now off in a ditch, thanks to Ronan’s self-confessed pigheadedness.
Agreeing to work together despite the rift in their relationship, Tennyson and Ronan discover they are in for more than they bargained for when more victims start to reveal themselves to Tennyson.
Realizing they might have a serial killer on their hands, the two men work tirelessly to stop this madman from killing again, but when the killer targets the son of a prominent member of the Boston Police Department, can Ronan and Tennyson save him before it’s too late?
It was Tenn’s turn to lose his cool with a case that hit close to home.
Tennyson, always the calm and unruffled one, couldn’t help but be emotional and angry when a ghost of a dead gay teenager appeared to let him know he was murdered. This opened a can of worms long since present in the city but largely ignored. That of homeless teenagers peddling their bodies in order to survive. Most of these teenagers were gay boys thrown out of their houses. Tenn was would have been one of these teens living on the streets if not for his psychic gifts.
Meanwhile Ronan manned up and finally admitted that he has a problem. He and Tenn had a huge blow up regarding how the previous case of his ex-husband turning out to be a child killer, was affecting him. This led to him walking away from Tenn.
Ronan was more likable in this book, especially after they reconciled. He was happier and warmer. His connection with Tenn was stronger. He still had his moments but the temper tantrums were less frequent. He still blurted out details of the case to a journalist but that was because he needed the man’s help. Like Tenn said, we’re seeing the side of Ronan that was there before his dreaded ex ruined it.
This installment also saw a more human Captain Kevin Fitzgibbon, Ronan’s boss. I liked how the captain fit right in Tenn and Ronan’s ever expanding family. I’m glad Fitz has his own book.
Dead Reckoning is another serial killing case where teen prostitutes were the main target. The details of the crimes were harrowing but not too graphic. The killer was harder to guess compared to the first book. Although, I found that the story tried a little too hard in directing my attention to the other guy.
IMHO, I think, it would have been more interesting if the killer was known early on and the story was more about trying to prove that he’s the guy. Kind of like what L.A. Witt & Cari Z. did in Suspicious Behavior. I rarely come across their kind of take on the serial killer trope.
The author did a good job building up to the climax. However at the most critical point, things quickly went pear-shaped on different levels. A police officer who knew better forgot his training and came rushing half-cocked into a standoff. Shots were fired, he was hit on the chest. Then came more people, people who were supposedly severely injured, rushing in and crying. It was stupid and melodramatic. I expected better.
Dead Reckoning may have some parts that could have been done differently, but overall, I enjoyed this book. I was hooked on the story for hours. There were definite improvements from the first book, Dead Speak. I liked how the ending set up expectations for the third book.
Would Tenn enjoy the silence?
3.5 Stars – that place between like and love0
Cold Case Psychic: Dead Speak – Pandora Pine
Demoted to the cold case squad after shooting a suspect in the line of duty, Detective Ronan O’Mara knows that his career with the Boston Police Department is hanging by a thread. His first assignment is the case of Michael Frye, a five-year-old boy who has been missing for seven years. With no new leads or witnesses to interview, Ronan has to start from scratch to solve this mystery. When he sees a handsome local psychic on television, Ronan figures he’s got nothing to lose in enlisting the man’s help to find Michael.
Psychic Tennyson Grimm is riding high after helping South Shore cops find a missing child. He’s even being courted by the Reality Show Network about a program showcasing his abilities. He has no idea that his midday appointment with a customer, who instead turns out to be a police detective, is going to change the course of his life and his career.
With the blessing of the BPD, which badly needs an image make-over, Ronan is allowed to bring Tennyson in to assist with the Frye case. Being thrown together in front of cameras is never easy, but add in an emotional missing person’s investigation, a tight-lipped spirit, and a cop who’s a skeptic, and it definitely puts a strain on both men and their working relationship.
When the child’s body is found, the work to identify his killer begins. As Ronan and Tennyson get closer to solving the case, the initial attraction they feel for one another explodes into a passion neither man can contain.
Will working together to bring Michael’s killer to justice seal their fledgeling bond, or will unexpected revelations in the case tear them apart forever?
Whenever something somewhere happens, somebody shouts, screams, bellows. That somebody is usually Detective Ronan O’Mara, who as a police officer, certainly had no qualms yelling out confidential police info when his temper gets the better of him. I neither liked nor disliked the man. He was not a boring character, I’ll grant him that. But, jeez, get a hold of yourself, Ro!
Tennyson ‘Ten’ Grimm is a psychic with the patience of a saint. He’s able to deal with anything from grieving parents to hot-headed detectives with equanimity. I dunno what he sees in Ronan but he’s a psychic a.k.a. he can read people, so I trust he knows his business
Cold Case Psychic is a police+psychic procedural series that’s off to a 3-star start. Book 1, Dead Speak brought together the detective and psychic to work on a cold case of a missing child last seen 7 years ago. Their investigation was filmed for a reality tv pilot with the series name as their working title.
It bothered me that these two seemed to forget they were being recorded. I know that’s the point of reality tv but still. They talk about details of the case that should have been secret. They fight and blurt out very personal issues right inside the car with voice activated cameras. And Ronan’s captain never even mentioned his lack of professionalism. At all.
I would like to say I guessed the unsub early on but I didn’t. I only got the hint when I read the other reviews that complained about the villain being portrayed as pure evil. Probably if I was smarter or more invested (because at some points, I was just there for the ride) the glaring clues should have tipped me off. Heck, he was the only one who was consistently mean. Michael was slow to reveal the clues which made the story longer. This is understandable because he was a child, even if a ghost, and had to be handled sensitively.
Even if I knew who did it, it was still enjoyable finding out the hows and whys. I still felt a sense of anticipation with the big reveal and the climax brought out the heebie jeebies. Sure, it was a bit OTT with the voices in the head thing but it was still effective.
Ten’s growing found family was a pleasure to meet. The prequel is a must read for Carson and Truman’s story. They’re expecting triplets. Cole is Carson’s brother who is married to Cassie, who is Truman’s bestfriend and business partner. They have a 1 year old daughter, Laurel. The brothers are both psychics. Tennyson is mentoring them.
All in all, I wasn’t wowed but I’m up for the second book. If you like a passable police procedural with a winsome family of psychics you might want to give this one a go. But skip if you’re looking for a stronger connection between MCs, a more professional police behavior and a more mindboggling case of whodunnit.
3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it0
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 bits0
Paul Monroe Mystery: Diagnosis: Death – A.P. Eisen
When a body is found in the park, Paul Monroe knows two things: this isn’t a simple mugging, and the weekend he has planned with his boyfriend is officially over before it begins. With no murder weapon but a slew of suspects at the ready, Paul and his partner, Rob, begin the tedious task of piecing together the few clues they have.
Happier than he’s ever been, Cliff knows there’s more to Paul than the tough exterior the man shows to the world, but Cliff is determined to take things slow. An unexpected phone call forces him to revisit the pain of his past, and now he needs Paul more than ever, but he’s hesitant to ask, unwilling to pressure Paul into a decision he might not be ready to make.
Paul’s investigation means more long nights away from Cliff, who is grappling with his unsettling news. Not being able to support Cliff isn’t sitting right with Paul, and for the first time his personal life is as important as his job. Knowing he has Paul to lean on gives Cliff the courage to speak and to heal old wounds as they navigate the minefield of building a relationship. Meanwhile, a killer walks the streets of Thornwood Park, and Paul won’t be satisfied until they are caught and justice served.
I really liked A.P. Eisen’s debut novel, Couldn’t Cheat Death, the first book of the Paul Monroe Mystery. I mentioned that the storytelling had a straightforwardness that appealed to me. Diagnosis: Death is angstier but had the same feel. Although this time, the straightforward quality of the writing had a tendency to feel a bit bland at some points. This is minor and didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the novel.
The book is a murder mystery/police procedural with a nice little romantic subplot. Family troubles, past and present, make themselves known all around. A long-suffering wife, an obsessed maid and a drug-addicted son were all involved in the murder. Cliff’s parents reached out to him 15 years after he was thrown out of the house, with the news that his mother is ill. Paul is slowing opening up and coming out to Cliff’s friends and his dad. Even Rob, Paul’s partner, is dealing with his wife’s difficult pregnancy.
There were many recurring characters. The victim here was the doctor who had an affair with the victim from the first book. The doc, who is a closeted gay or bi, slept with his personal trainer in the same gym, following his MO from the first book. The personal trainer was a douche who had no qualms blackmailing the doc, making him the most likely suspect.
The mystery was well-written. The procedural was the same as the first book, not so hardcore on the procedures but still investigative enough to satisfy any fan’s yen for the genre. About midway through the story, the perp became obvious but I still enjoyed reading how Paul and Rob figured it out.
I also liked that this series is not a partner-to-lovers trope. All too often, MM police procedurals tend to fall in that category so I appreciated Paul and Rob’s partnership+friendship.
On a more personal note, Cliff and Paul navigates their three-month old relationship. I really liked how the author handled this part, letting the conflict come from the outside rather than between the two men. Cliff and Paul are probably the most level-headed bookish couple I’ve come across with. For somebody who has never been in a relationship, Paul pretty much aced it as a boyfriend. And no matter how much shit his well-meaning friends tried to stir, i.e. warnings about Cliff letting himself be the dirty secret once again, Cliff didn’t let it poison his view that Paul will come out when he’s ready.
Diagnosis: Death is a good continuation to the series. It picked up where the first book left off and made good use of the old characters and their habits. There’s great character and relationship development and I hope the author would continue their progress without resorting to the usual Big Fight. So far this series delivered and I’m looking forward to the next case!
The books are best read in order. Review of book one, Couldn’t Cheat Death here.
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits0
Not Dead Yet – Jenn Burke
Dying isn’t what it used to be.
Wes Cooper was dead. Then he wasn’t—though he’s not exactly alive, either. As an immortal not-ghost, he can transition between this world and the otherplane, which makes him the perfect thief for hire. For seventy years he’s made a “living” returning items to their rightful owners, seeing his fair share of the bizarre in the process. But he’s never witnessed murder. Until now.
His latest mission brings him more than he bargained for: a very-dead actor who is definitely going to stay that way. It’s just Wes’s luck that his ex-boyfriend, Detective Hudson Rojas, is assigned to the case. Hudson broke Wes’s heart years ago—and could again, given he’s rocking a hot silver-fox look that shouldn’t be legal.
As they work together to track down the murderer before anyone else gets hurt, it becomes clear Wes and Hudson have unfinished business. And when a secret Hudson’s been keeping threatens more than just their happiness, it might mean the end of their not-life together—permanently.
This book is approximately 91,000 words
Not Dead Yet by Jenn Burke has one of the most unique premises I’ve encountered for a while, putting a fresh spin on the ghost lover trope.
First, it’s set in Toronto and I can’t even remember the last time I’ve read a book with a Canadian setting. So that’s a big plus. Also, Wesley Cooper is a not-ghost. He’s 110 years old, killed by a lover in 1933 and brought back to life by his lover’s sister who was a witch.
Wes works as a ‘recovery specialist’ aka glorified thief who retrieves certain items per client request. He can become a ghost and go to the other plane at will, which is a very useful ability for his job because ‘no breaking, just entering‘. He has not aged in a century and forever looks in his 20s.
The other MC is Detective Hudson Rojas, Wes’ ex-boyfriend, with whom he parted in not so good terms. They met in the 80s when people were not open to gay relationships especially in the police force. They met again when Wes was involved in a murder case. Hud turned out to be quite the silver fox at 58. Interestingly, he stopped aging in his 30s (he turned grey early) because, well, you’ll see.
These established the backbones of a highly entertaining paranormal mystery. The world-building came naturally. Nothing too complicated on the surface, very magical realism feels. But as I get deeper into the story, it became obvious that there’s more to this than merely witches and ghosts. There’s so many fun things you can do with this set-up and different avenues to explore.
The story is told in Wes’ POV. I loved his ‘voice’. Wes is very open with his feelings. He could be a tad dramatic sometimes but his thoughts never failed to be funny.
Hudson is the opposite of Wes. He’s grumpy and blunt. He was an asshole to Wes many times. As in, downright insulting at some instances. Then just like that, he turns on the charm. The hot and cold treatment should have been a turn off but Jenn Burke pulled it off really well and I can’t even dislike Hudson that much. He had his reasons.
I really enjoyed the slow-burn, second chance romantic subplot. It was integrated nicely to the story. It’s pretty obvious that the spark was still strong which was highlighted by how easily they traded zingers as if they never parted. And since slow-burn is my jam, I get a thrill out of the whole process of catching up, dancing around barely suppressed feelings and hashing it out.
It’s not just the romantic chemistry between them. I liked how the the contract thief and the police detective worked together in the case. Their shared history and complimenting abilities was put to good use in the investigation. Their partnership came together through necessity but they just clicked on many levels.
Very likable supporting cast too, with Lexi, Wesley’s witch bestfriend and the great grandaughter of the witch who brought Wes to life. There’s also Evan, somebody they adopted because Hudson accidentally killed him when Wes appeared out of nowhere. I appreciated the found family thing forming for these people who always end up alone as their loved ones come and go through the decades.
The book also has a good ace rep. Wes is demisexual and Hudson is one of the rare few who did it for him. Appropriately, it’s a low heat book with only one sex scene. Low heat or no heat makes reading more convenient for me because it usually means less pages to skip.
The mystery was a well-written one. For one of his jobs, Wes had to retrieved an item from the house of an actress, only to walk in on her being strangled by a shadowy being. Who suddenly looked directly at Wes while he was still in his ghostly form. That should have been impossible!
Not Dead Yet effectively blended police procedural and paranormal. It kept me engage all throughout the story and kept me in the dark until the big reveal. I had a few suspects but then there were more mysterious agendas from mysterious masterminds in action. And with this, things unraveled fast. The two men were in a whole world of trouble!
The story ended with a great jumping off point for the next book. Wes and Hudson came to an agreement. Major career changes were planned. Something is happening to Wes and he doesn’t know what. I need to find out more ASAP!
Overall, Not Dead Yet is shaping up to be a very promising series. It’s heavy on humor, light on spook, with a just the right balance of romance, mystery and paranormal that really worked for me. Recommended if you like your ghosts sassy, your detectives gruff and your stories twisty.
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits0
Big Bad Wolf: The Wolf At The Door – Charlie Adhara
A former FBI agent is partnered with the enemy in this suspenseful male/male shifter romance from debut author Charlie Adhara
Hunting for big bad wolves was never part of Agent Cooper Dayton’s plan, but a werewolf attack lands him in the carefully guarded Bureau of Special Investigations. A new case comes with a new partner: ruggedly sexy werewolf Oliver Park.
Park is an agent of The Trust, a werewolf oversight organization working to ease escalating tensions with the BSI. But as far as Cooper’s concerned, it’s failing. As they investigate a series of mysterious deaths unlike anything they’ve seen, every bone in Cooper’s body is suspicious of his new partner—even when Park proves himself as competent as he is utterly captivating.
When more people vanish, pressure to solve the case skyrockets. And though he’d resolved to keep things professional, Cooper’s friction with Park soon erupts…into a physical need that can’t be contained or controlled. But with a body count that’s rising by the day, werewolves and humans are in equal danger. If Cooper and Park don’t catch the killer soon, one—or both—of them could be the next to go.
I’ve been reading three shifter stories in quick succession. So far, each of them brought something different to the table and kept things from being same-y. All Souls Near & Nigh has gods and magic galore and Hexhunter has witches, familiars and its own toned-down magic.
The third book, The Wolf At The Door has no magic at all, except maybe for the part where people can change into wolves. It’s an engaging first novel that blended were-wolves with police procedural. It puts a fresh spin on the shifter genre and offers another delightful couple to root for. So I’m happy my first Charlie Adhara is a win.
First, I really liked how this series avoided the usual insta-love fated mate thing and made the whole set-up as realistic as it can given the premise. It treated the wolves as ‘normal’, almost like a racial minority who had to fight for their rights and deal with bigotry.
The wolves came out to the government but still a secret to the general public. The Trust, their oversight organization, collaborated with the Bureau of Special Investigations to investigate possible wolf-related serial killings in the town of Florence. Cooper was the agent chosen to investigate and he was assigned Park as his Trust partner. Cooper survived a werewolf attack, which was the reason why he started working at the BSI and being partnered with a werewolf was bound to get his hackles up.
“Something bothering you, Agent Dayton?”
“Nope. Just want to solve this case. And go home and hug my very live cat.”
“Should have known you were a cat person.”
“Why, because I don’t like you?” Cooper muttered as Park left the trailer.
Cooper is insecure, not a small talk person and more often than not tends to be harsh. Meanwhile, Park is unflappable, caring, and kind of perfect really with a vulnerable side that makes you want to hug him, especially when Cooper was being particularly bitchy. This combination has worked pretty well for other mystery/paranormal series such as Holmes & Moriarity and Psycop and the same fantastic chemistry could be felt in this series too as viewed from Cooper’s perspective. I also liked how the progression of their romance was paced and where they are in their relationship when the book ended.
Mystery-wise, I guessed the unsub early on. However, I didn’t really mind. Even with the predictable part, the book was well-written and had a lot of surprising twists, suspenseful moments and snarky humor to keep me listening until 4 am. I enjoyed tagging along with Cooper and Park in their investigation. I was also more focus on Park who was a big mystery himself. It didn’t help that the were-wolf was close-lipped when it comes to himself and his family. There were many things hinted at, the Parks, were-wolf politics, the ominous “it’s bigger than us” declarations, a lot of hush-hush stuff. That’s also as far as the world-building goes and boy, do I need to know more!
So color me intrigued. And hooked! I’m definitely sticking around for these big bad wolves.
Recommended for those who like ’em growley but low-key.
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits0
Hazard and Somerset: Pretty Pretty Boys – Gregory Ashe
After Emery Hazard loses his job as a detective in Saint Louis, he heads back to his hometown–and to the local police force there. Home, though, brings no happy memories, and the ghosts of old pain are very much alive in Wahredua. Hazard’s new partner, John-Henry Somerset, had been one of the worst tormentors, and Hazard still wonders what Somerset’s role was in the death of Jeff Langham, Hazard’s first boyfriend.
When a severely burned body is discovered, Hazard finds himself drawn deeper into the case than he expects. Determining the identity of the dead man proves impossible, and solving the murder grows more and more unlikely. But as the city’s only gay police officer, Hazard is placed at the center of a growing battle between powerful political forces. To his surprise, Hazard finds an unlikely ally in his partner, the former bully. And as they spend more time together, something starts to happen between them, something that Hazard can’t–and doesn’t want–to explain.
The discovery of a second mutilated corpse, though, reveals clues that the two murders are linked, and as Hazard gets closer to answers, he uncovers a conspiracy of murder and betrayal that goes deeper–and closer to home–than he could ever expect.
I think this really couldn’t have worked.
You got a married man with a kid who cheated on his wife. CHEATED!! which is a total deal breaker for me. I don’t care if he was set up, he could always walk away no matter what honeyed trap was dangled in front of him. Also he’s a drunkard. A coward. And too good looking.
Then you have a surly, stubborn detective with zero people skills who rubbed everybody the wrong way. Who was bullied by said married man when they were in high school.
This is not your standard recipe for an MM romance. This sounds more like that dish best served cold but, with Gregory Ashe’s magic, makes for a truly engrossing enemies to lovers(?) story. Question mark because they were barely even friends at the end of the first book. This is as slow burn as it can get, as per other reviews, they didn’t become a couple until a few more books. Which is totally fine by me because I tend to complain about things going too fast anyway.
But how can you make a set-up that screams lose-lose work?
John-Henry Somerset pushed Emery Hazard down the stairs when they were in high school. He is now married to his HS sweetheart, albeit estranged because, as MM writers love to say, he was betrayed by his traitorous dick. Emery went back to his hometown to solve an old mystery of why his HS boyfriend committed suicide. Facing old bullies is painful and awkward and I feel for Hazard right there. To be fair to Somers, he knew he fucked up and he really did try to make it up to Hazard. Somers is the type of person who wants to be liked by everybody so of course he practically begged Hazard to like him.
Hazard and Somers’ interactions go from
“You touch me again,… you shake my hand, you grab my sleeve, you so much as bump me in the mother-fucking hallway, and I will kill you. Do you understand me?“
to Somers’s smiled his normal frat-boy smile. “So,” he said, drawing out the word. “You like me?” “God, you’re a fucking moron.”
to “Just like fucking high school“
Always with a smattering of USTs bubbling just below the surface. The chemistry is fantastic! I don’t even actively like these two men but yeah, go for that second chance!
USTs are all good but they can only take you so far. What really made this stood out is how well the author fleshed out the complicated and not necessarily romance-related relationships between these flawed, complex characters in a way that just draws you into them. Many times I want to smack them in the head. Sometimes I feel sorry for them. Once in a while I could say they’re OK. There were no neatly tied conclusions. Things will continue to remain awkward and unresolved for a while.
Nico deserves a mention. He was the grad school student who pursued Hazard and they were kind of cute together so I imagined a parallel universe called Nico & Hazard.
This book is really a murder mystery story. The detectives were working on a vandalism case and a homicide where one unidentified body was burned inside a trailer. Hazard, being Hazard, made himself a few enemies while Somers played the good cop, charming everybody with his megawatt smiles. The investigation introduced us to important personalities of Wahredua, among them, extremists at the polar opposites of the spectrum. Both were responsible for so much vitriol and trigger warnings. Their hate speeches could put off some readers but you can always skip these parts if it’s too disturbing. As for the mystery, it was obvious who the bad guy was but it was such a well-written book and well-narrated too (courtesy of Tristan James), I didn’t mind it. Then Hazard had to go be a distrustful fool and things went from pudding to poop real quick for him and Somers.
Apart from the obvious appeal of the MM romance angle, Pretty Pretty Boys has all the good stuff-of a great police procedural novel where there is a nice interplay between the police work and the personal issues, compelling main characters, tightly written prose and engaging storytelling that kept me glued to the book. It’s a solid start to an addicting series and I’m definitely excited to see how things will play out.
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits0
Psychic Detective Mysteries: Shadow’s Edge by S.C. Wynne
Liam Baker can see things. Dead people like to visit him and tell them how they were wronged. Some might call it a gift, other’s a curse. But either way this ability makes him useful to Los Angeles homicide detective Kimball Thompson.
Some madman is slitting the throats of young male prostitutes and then dumping their bodies in the desert with vague clues of pink feathers and the number five. Usually Liam can talk to the spirits of the dead. But someone is blocking him. Someone is taunting him.
The case is rapidly deteriorating into a violent, psychic pissing contest and Liam can’t see far enough ahead to figure out who wins or who dies.
I seem to be building a collection of psychic detectives as I yet again start on a series featuring another consulting medium+ police detective combo. Someday, I going to create a ranking list featuring these ghost talkers. Unfortunately, Liam Baker might not make it to the top 5 as this book is pretty average.
First, the romance between Liam and Thompson was a big plus. It worked quite well with the mystery as the backdrop. Liam is prickly and grief-stricken over William, who was also Thompson’s partner. Thompson is a tough-looking, workaholic homicide detective who have always cared about Liam and had taken him under his wing when William died. He has deeply hidden feeling’s for his late partner’s boyfriend. This and the work-related pressures added extra tension to what was an already fragile relationship. Then Thompson started dating somebody else and Liam slowly realized that he was attracted to Thompson. And that he needed to get over William’s passing. All of which brought out Liam’s thorny side and he was being quite an ass. At this point, Thompson had given up on having his feelings requited, Liam being clueless and such and that should have been the end of it. But there were feels ready to be felt and USTs that irresistibly needed to be resolved and hash it out they did. While not exactly sqee-tastic, the chemistry sparked, the dynamics was enjoyable and their transition from work partners to romantic partners was convincingly executed.
However, for me, the mystery should stand out as well and while it was one of the main threads, it wasn’t as strongly delivered as I hope it would. It was as generic as they come. I didn’t feel the suspense or the chill and some of the clues’ significance were not so clear during the big confrontation with the killer. Even the killer’s motive seemed weak. I was looking forward to this ‘psychic pissing contest‘ but I’m disappointed that the antagonist was too one-dimensional.
The world-building also needed to be fleshed out. Are psychics common in their world? Everybody seemed okay with the police working with a consulting medium so maybe we can assume it is so. Since Samhain was mentioned, do other paranormal entities exist in their world too? Given the length of the book, it might not be surprising that we only get the bare-bones details but it would have been more effective to give the reader a little more meat to chew on as this would make mystery more compelling. Maybe in the second book then.
Because I liked Liam and Thompson enough to read the second book. Also, I like Kale Williams’ narration a lot. Hopefully, book two’s much better than this.
So, if you, like me, prefer your police procedural romance to be heavy on the mystery and police work, this might not be the book for you. But if you like your romance served with a side of mystery and paranormal, Shadow’s Edge by S.C. Wynne might do it for you.
If you are interested on other books featuring psychics, check out:
Psycop by Jordan Castillo Price (review here)
Tyack & Frayne by Harper Fox (review here)
Badlands by Morgan Brice (review here)
The Community by Santino Hassel (review here)
The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal (review here)
3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it0