A relatively by-the-book whodunnit interspersed with huge amounts of subplots and mix-and-match character relationships. At points, it's a little hardA relatively by-the-book whodunnit interspersed with huge amounts of subplots and mix-and-match character relationships. At points, it's a little hard to keep track of who's who (Sam/Mac/Logan/Duncan/Zane/Ryan/Adam/Sasha/Nicky/Braxton/Remy/Christian/etc./etc.) and how they know one another, because they're all gorgeous gay guys who go to Tangerine (well, not Nicky or Sasha, but I'm sure they would if they could). The jumpy way the book is written means that I found it difficult to invest myself in any one plotline. A scene would begin, things would start building up, and then just as suddenly it would switch to somebody else, doing something else entirely. The actual writing was adequate, if clunky in places, but there was a terrible overuse of epithets: the man, the boy, the guy, FBI agent, the Texan, and so on. A good editor would be helpful, to reduce the copious SPAG errors and to tighten up the prose itself.
Like I said, there's a bevy of characters, which ends up being a little overwhelming. On the other hand, I was much more invested in some of the bit players than I was in Sam, Mac, or their relationship, which seemed predicated mostly on how ~amazingly gorgeous~ each of them found the other. They bump into each other, think Holy shit, he's good-looking, exchange numbers, and start meeting up to have sex. I found it difficult to really maintain any interest in them, since mostly they just got it on and thought about how hot the other was. (Sam is dark-haired with piercing eyes, Mac is huge and 100% All-American beef. Spare me.) There was some antagonistic back-and-forth between the two of them, presumably an attempt to get UST going and hit an enemies-to-lovers sort of tone, but to be frank, it just made them both come off as kind of petty and childish, as they sniped at one another for basically no reason. Their relationship just didn't have any punch, and the book ends before it can move beyond something tentative, so there's not much romance, either. Mac's thing about not coming out to his friends because of his politician family's command was dumb, and Sam was a vacuum and generally kind of a dick.
As other reviewers mentioned, the women in general really suffer here: bitchy, cold, and one-dimensional. There's Gabi, Amy, Mac's mother, Sam's sister, Sam's mother, an FBI agent whose sole apparent quality is being "conciliatory" because she "became a mother" (gag), and a quirky Asian hacker straight out of a bad cyberpunk film. The former four are awful; the latter three are barely even in the story. It's hard to understand the point of any of them, since none of them really seems to do much, but since the text doesn't seem to display any sympathy for them, it's obviously not to show the reader their miseries and eventual character growth. I found Sam's sister especially egregious, mostly because she was a victim of severe spousal abuse but was portrayed as a heartless monster, without the nuanced touch that a story like hers really deserves. The guys may fall under similar patterns, but they're all still distinct characters, so it's not clear why the women didn't warrant similar differentiation.
The investigation itself was laughably unrealistic, not to mention hardly relevant to the plot, but as it's made clear early on that this is a character-based book and not a procedural, I didn't really mind. Other readers might feel differently, however, so fair warning: if you're going into this looking for a realistic and thorough forensic thriller, don't bother.
On that note: (view spoiler)[Part of my problem with the book is it's exceedingly obvious who the killer is, unless the author has a very unexpected twist up her sleeve-- i.e. it's Julian, the only superfluous character. Everyone else has backstories, interactions, hidden depths, and then there's the one outlier, hardly even seen for most of the book, whose only qualities are weirdness and intensity. He does nothing else except be creepy and invasive, threaten Christian, talk about how he's going to protect Christian and make sure he's "safe" (see: the whole wolf/lamb shit from the first chapter), and lurk in his studio, doing paintings no one sees. Coincidentally, the killer includes personalized artwork whenever he dumps a body! Look at that. Also, Julian is obsessed with belly-button rings, is working some sort of ultimate "masterpiece" (that's not at all ominous, of course), goes insane in a markedly violent way when Christian breaks up with him, Christian is the Ur-boyfriend whom all the victims resemble, and "Peter," the creepy guy with whom Ryan goes on a date, smells "sweet." You know what else smells sweet? Turpentine. Basically, there's no mystery; unless it turns out that Sasha did it or something (and wouldn't that be a twist!) the murderer is transparent from essentially the first time he's mentioned, and since this purports to be a mystery that's not very good. And Logan, so-called FBI profiler extraordinaire, doesn't even blink when Christian starts talking about Julian's various creepy ways. For God's sake, Lo, he looks exactly like the victims you've found, he started dating Julian at the same time Lev started ramping up his killings, and he mentioned his boyfriend's focus on belly-button piercings. You really don't find any of that weird? Put it together, man. (hide spoiler)]
As this is only the first part in a serial, it ends on a cliffhanger, both in terms of the Sam/Mac relationship (who cares?) and the murder plot (such as it is). Unfortunately, as this abrupt end isn't necessarily clear at the outset, it can come as a bit of a shock, particularly since the last scene of the book (a mirror to the first) is a POV from the ~mysterious killer~ showing that ~the violence isn't over yet~. Yeah, okay, of course it's not. Hopefully the second book will wrap things up for good; I don't feel that there's nearly enough of a mystery here to draw out the story any more than that. I shudder to imagine the author trying to make this particular murderer last multiple sequels. Again, guys, it's (view spoiler)[Julian (hide spoiler)], I'm pretty sure he did it.
Some of the characters were a bit more questionable than I think the author intended. I'm giving Donovan the benefit of the doubt, as I don't think they were meant to seem so creepy, but they did. I especially enjoyed the scene where Christian (a grown man) chases Sasha (a homeless, abused fifteen-year-old boy) down the street and asks to take pictures of him; it's incredibly sleazy, but apparently the narrative doesn't think so. It certainly doesn't seem like the reader is supposed to find Christian's behavior suspect or predatory, even though his internal narration keeps going on about how hot and exotic Sasha is in a really weird way (he calls Sasha a "cutie," a "young beauty," "exquisite," and "gorgeous," continuing to wax poetic on Sasha's appearance even after he learns Sasha's age). This is exacerbated by the fact that Christian is doing all of this in front of the gay youth shelter that Logan has been desperately trying to coax Sasha into staying at. Sasha is basically a feral cat, and Logan has spent a bunch of time trying to get him to be more trusting and open and see the shelter as a refuge from the mysterious violence in his home life, and now, right in front of this sanctuary, he gets some adult stranger creeping on him. It didn't seem to bother the character, but I actually felt quite bad for him, because I think a lot of real boys in his position would be incredibly scared and disturbed by an interaction like that. Though I doubt the author intended to include such undertones, the whole thing was just flat-out inappropriate and made Christian seem quite gross. He's like a chickenhawk, trolling around in front of a homeless gay youth shelter for vulnerable minors to photograph. Couldn't he control himself? Sam is also a little sketchy-- see him calling Sasha "little beauty there"-- but at least he didn't essentially proposition Sasha, I guess?
There were parts I liked: I want to see the resolution of the Nicky/Sasha story line (they were my favorites, and I hope they get a happy ending) and I was vaguely fond of Logan, who was a decent sort, if, uh, a little oblivious at times. To say the least.
In summation: I'm not sure I'll read the second book, but I might ctrl-F through it to see what happens to the characters I care about the most. Take that as you will.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
What's there to say? If you're reading this one, you probably know how you feel about the series already: either you enjoy it, or, like me, you're filWhat's there to say? If you're reading this one, you probably know how you feel about the series already: either you enjoy it, or, like me, you're filled with a vaguely-morbid curiosity and have nothing better to do one afternoon. The characters are relatively unrealistic, tall, dashingly handsome, and very masculine (though not afraid to throw around endearments like they're going out of style); the plot is mostly a road trip story interspersed with moments of clumsy action; the ending falls apart a little. It's not bad, but I wouldn't necessarily call it good....more
The mystery was very secondary to lots of banging, and the characters were annoying. The nicknames drove me absolutely insane after a while. There's aThe mystery was very secondary to lots of banging, and the characters were annoying. The nicknames drove me absolutely insane after a while. There's a cliffhanger/twist ending, which may or may not be the lead-in to a sequel (I've heard contradicting things about the author's intentions); if there's no sequel planned, it's a bit of a downer, I suppose. I find it generally unrealistic that a police force would opt to have officers go undercover in such a manner, but it's something I was able to just sort of shrug away....more