LAST YEAR I WAS READING…(June 1, 2022)
Here are the rules:
Take your current read and compare it to what you reading this exact time last year. Which one do you like better? What is different about the books? Any special facts/things you want to make note of or bring attention to?
REVIEW: Black Moon by Elle Keaton
Veiled Intentions: Black Moon – Elle Keaton
One corpse, two corpse, old corpse, new corpse.
Summer is crashing into fall, Mat and Niall have a wedding to overthink.
A body is discovered floating in the harbor and this time it’s the missing ex-Piedras Marine officer Duane Cooper.
Who, aside from Niall, wanted Duane dead? He’s been on the run for months, why would he turn up dead now?
Black Moon, third in the Veiled Intentions series, Black Moon is a dual POV following Sheriff Mat Dempsey and now Private Investigator Niall Hamarsson as they grope their way to a happily ever after.
Black Moon is the third book in the Veiled Intentions (formerly Hamarsson & Dempsey) series. Hopefully not the last. It follows directly from the awkward and very Niall proposal from the second book, Long Shadow.
The series is set in a small island of Piedras, part of the real life San Juan Islands in Washington. Island natives Niall Hamarrson and Sheriff Mat Dempsey both grew up in the island, moved away as adults, only to come back to their hometown later on. Niall, as way to find himself perhaps and Mat, after his father died.
The two started off antagonistic but Mat is a do-gooder who slowly but surely chipped away at the walls Niall built around himself. Fast forward many months later, Niall and Matt were trying to squeeze in wedding planning amidst murder investigations, new jobs, bomb explosions and buildings collapsing. A man involved in the previous case and who was missing for months was fished out of the water, dead.
I’ve been following this series since the beginning and I loved watching the characters grow. Niall in particular. Look how far he had come! When I first met him in Book 1, Conspiracy Theory, he was a grumpy bastard who barely said a word to anyone. The longest sentence he uttered was when he was talking about his dog, Fenrir.
Now, well, I wouldn’t say he’s a completely different person but you can definitely see his warm, caring side. Especially when Mat and animals are involved. He’s not really talking more but at least he talks. He’s even getting along with his new co-workers at West Coast Forensics, a private investigation firm.
I also loved how even if the two men were settling into a nice, comfortable domestic routine, the romance is far from boring. There’s enough external conflict to keep them on their toes. With work as dangerous as theirs, it’s just right that they have something safe and normal to come home to. And even if they had huge blow ups, they don’t let the bad feelings fester. They always talk and work things out. They’re complete opposites but they just synced perfectly!
The case was a tough one. It had me guessing until the big reveal. Mat unearthed a decade old secret about his father’s death. Niall was doing his usual bullheaded best by ‘helping’ with Mat’s investigation whether his fiance wanted him to or not. The big guy was supposed to rest after a building collapsed on him. But obviously, not one for staying at home and twiddling his thumbs. Not one to concern himself with legalities either.
The mystery connects to the previous cases as well as the author’s other books. There were many characters from other series that made appearances. I enjoyed this part a lot. It introduces a bigger world and more stories to explore.
This series has great supporting characters. There’s Alyson, Mat’s mom, as well as his sister and niece, who welcomed a long-lost Viking and his new-found mutt to their home right from the very beginning. There’s Birdy, Mat’s deputy and, possibly, the only capable officer in their perpetually understaffed department. There’s Marshall Soper, the only doctor in the island who had to double as a coroner. There’s smooth-talking lawyer, Shay, Niall’s half-brother, who he now likes. I hope Shay gets his own book.
The pacing here was better compared to the second book. It was faster and more consistent, giving a sense of constant motion while still delivering tension. There was ample time for the plot to develop properly. The downtimes didn’t lag. All in all, the best written installment in the series.
It also felt like a finale. Aside from the wedding, it wrapped up a lot of loose threads. It gave the boys their hard-earned happy ending and returned Piedras Island back to its sleepy, peaceful state. If Black Moon is indeed the last book, it’s a fitting conclusion to this compelling story about a big taciturn man and his giant dog, a kind-hearted sheriff who wouldn’t quit and a tiny island that always feels like home.
Veiled Intentions should be read in order.
Find out how a grumpy Viking found his way back to the home he thought he would never see again and a sheriff who wouldn’t leave him alone in Book 1, Conspiracy Theory. Check out my review here.
Witness how glacial that Viking can get when it comes to making up his mind about the sheriff (a patient, patient man bless his heart) in Book 2, Long Shadow. Check out my review here.
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
Soundtrack: Black Moon
Album: Midnight Is A Place
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US: Conspiracy Theory | Long Shadow | Black Moon
UK: Conspiracy Theory | Long Shadow | Black Moon
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CONSPIRACY THEORY | LONG SHADOW | BLACK MOON
AUDIO REVIEW: Long Shadow by Elle Keaton
Hamarsson & Dempsey: Long Shadow – Elle Keaton
Niall’s known nothing but betrayal. All Mat wants is Niall’s heart; what will it take for him to coax Niall in from the cold?
Mat’s connection with Niall is tenuous. One step forward, two steps back. Since that night on the beach Niall’s been avoiding Mat like a bad case of the flu–which, ironically, most of his deputies have come down with. What will it take for Niall to believe Mat wants him for who he is?
Mat’s overworked, Niall’s unnerved, and then things really go sideways.
Will a killer destroy everything before Niall realizes they are stronger together than apart?
Long Shadow is a dual POV about a broody introvert and a somewhat patient Sheriff. Mat will have to prove to Niall he’s the man for him. The Hamarsson and Dempsey series follows the same couple as they find their way to their happily ever after.
I was very much looking forward to this sequel. The first book, Conspiracy Theory, left us with an open ending that badly needed a resolution and this second book certainly made up for it!
Long Shadow picked up from where we last saw Niall, living in a hotel when his cottage was burned to the ground. Another case of fire soon appeared and Mat suspected a serial arsonist.
I very much appreciated the fact that this is not another murder case. No one was burned. The only casualties were the building structures. Although Mat had a close call when somebody planted a bomb in his cruiser. I liked how this part allowed Niall to step up as the significant person in Mat’s life.
I also liked that Mat and Niall were not partners as is usually the case with police procedural. Mat is the sheriff and Niall is a retired cop wondering what to do with his life.
The Hamarsson & Dempsey stories have a cozy feel to them. This is probably due to the small town setting and the way the gruesome details of the crimes were toned down, in addition to warm, friendly secondary characters and as well as other ‘distinguished’ minor characters.
The author was able to build an interesting small town community and establish recurring characters that made me wish they had books of their own. One of them, Marshall Sopper (?), the doctor who loves taking in strays. The good doctor took in an army medic and his son and there’s a big story there waiting to be told.
Another character I’d love to read about is Shay Delacombe, a lawyer who had surprising connections to Niall. He had a take-charge personality and would probably annoy Niall just for the heck of it.
Admittedly, the first parts of the story meandered a bit the way Niall was meandering through town, suspecting unsuspecting RVs and taking his own sweet time deciding what to do with his relationship with Mat. ‘Glacial’ was how Mat described it.
Luckily, the sheriff had infinite patience. Shouldering on, the story picked up when things started exploding and from then on it went on a quicker pace. Niall finally pulled his head out of his ass and took action. Then the story hurtled to an HEA. It may have been fast, it was still done nicely and with a few laughs especially with Shay butting in their business.
Now I’m not sure if we will get another book. I hope we’ll get more. There’s something about this series that appeals to me. It does not go over the top with the action and suspense, the cases aren’t the type that would involved huge media coverage. Yet somehow, it’s very engaging.
The audiobook was narrated by Michael Dean. He’s one of the more enjoyable narrators out there. He delivered suspense with just the right amount of tension. He also created distinct voices for each characters, even the female ones. I especially liked how his Niall voice suited the character to a T.
The books are written in dual POVs and I liked Niall’s and Mat’s narrative voices.
Niall is the last of the Hamarssons. He tends to overthink and is afraid of trusting anybody due to a rather traumatic childhood where he was abandoned by his mother. He says little and loves his alone time very much. As tactiturn as he is with humans, he talks a lot to his dog, Fenrir. His arc wasn’t fully resolved but I guess that leaves it open for more books.
Meanwhile, Mat tends to be easy-going and open. He takes his numerous responsibilities seriously. He lives with his mother, sister and niece. I liked how he saw through Niall’s walls to the good person behind it. Then he proceeded to leap over those walls and love that person too.
These books are not standalones. There were many events from the past that were directly referred to with not much explanation. I highly recommend meeting Niall when he first landed in Piedras Island. He was so alone and grumpy.
Witness him as he slooowly open up to Mat and his endearing family. Niall had come a long way. He still has ways to go. At least now, he had friends, family and a loyal dog with him. That’s all he needs really.
Thank you to Gay Romance Reviews and Audible UK for giving me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Review of book 1, Conspiracy Theory, here.
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
Soundtrack: Headlights On Dark Roads
Artist: Snow Patrol
Album: Eyes Open
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REVIEW: Conspiracy Theory by Elle Keaton
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
Soundtrack: This Island Life
Artist: Violent Femmes
Album: New Times