Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Rating: 4.5 stars
Received from Publisher
Blurb: Billionaire inventor Chase Gordon has just turned forty—and everything in his ordered little world is going to hell in an Hermès bag. His acerbic English butler Juliet Lavish has decided to retire. The humanitarian church founded by his late parents has suddenly gone broke—in the middle of the jungle—in Honduras. Lastly, NYPD detective Brian Schrade wants to use Chase’s palatial mansion to hide Walter Godfrey, a newspaper reporter who might know something about a recent rash of mob-related business deals. Part of the deal is the conniving, misanthropic Alec Pratt, son of a local newspaper mogul and unapologetic police informant who just might have a teensy weensy crush on Brian Schrade.
But Walter isn’t safe, not at Chase’s residence or anywhere else. His too-frequent forays into the city—against Brian Schrade’s advice—make him a target, and his strong attraction to Chase Gordon is setting him up for some serious heartbreak. When Chase goes to Honduras to investigate the state of his family’s failing fortunes, he adds another trouble to the long list: he’s been set up for kidnapping.
Review: In this compelling story, a web of nefarious circumstances pits several diverse men against the corrupt elements — and long reach– of organized crime. This was a consuming page turner, largely because many questions about the true motivations of all of the players were burning in my mind as I read. I absolutely needed to know who was a good guy, who was a bad guy, and who would come out victorious.
Four main characters are front and center, with all four men being well depicted. Precisely how deeply these men’s lives are interwoven is discovered over the course of the book. Discovering the details of the various inter-personal relationships was every bit as fun and satisfying as the ultimate outcome of the story. During the opening few chapters, the reader is not provided up with a lot of details up front. This served to pique my interest. Many times I found myself thinking “hey, what about this incident?”, or “who is he really working for?”, only to find my question answered within a few pages, or at times the next chapter. This gradual reveal of details and meshing of plot points is definitely a signature of this author’s alluring writing style.
Here is an overview of the four main characters. The author did a superb job of presenting them all as distinct, vulnerable, intriguing individuals. Their dialogue is realistic, engaging, and convincing. I became emotionally invested in each and every one of them.
Walter – A former NYC fire-fighter who experienced personal tragedy on 9/11, Walter is now working as a freelance newspaper reporter. Walter is relentless when it comes to getting a story, and rattles some pretty high cages at times, which could have something to do with his current freelance status. He is frequently hounded by a young guy named Alec, who sometimes proves helpful, but is generally annoying, as well as a bit freaky. One night, Walter ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time. He winds up in protective custody as a result of the crime he witnessed, and then gets stashed away at the estate of the reclusive Chase Gordon. What had seemed like Walter’s worst nightmare could actually end up leading to a huge scoop about Gordon’s life.
Alec – The scatterbrained, ostracized son of a dirty newspaper magnate, Alec is also a snitch. Does his loyalty belong to a mafia boss, or Detective Schrade? Alec likes to sniff around Walter to see if he can get any scoop. Being the son of a millionaire, one would think Alec has it made. Alas, as a father, Alec’s old man is an epic fail, and, unbeknownst to Alec, he is also the worst kind of criminal. When it was discovered that Alec was pursuing a college major other than business, his father pulled all family funding. The need for money led to Alec’s work as snitch. I definitely became attached to all four of the main men in this story. Forced to pick a favorite, it would be Alec as I felt his layers were the most evident, his emotions the most raw.
Schrade (Brian) – Seasoned NYC Detective Schrade is determined to acquire solid take down information on notorious mafia figures. Part of his plan involves the use of imbedded snitches, of whose ranks Alec has become numero uno. Alec has been cooperating with Schrade for several years, or so Schrade thinks. After witnessing a mob crime, Walter found himself under Schrade’s protective watch, and also acting as a possible pawn. Too add to the stress and uncertainties of working the mafia case, Schrade’s feelings for Alec are starting to cause complications.
Chase – Heir to the Gordon fortune, Chase is a recluse philanthropist/inventor who is also paraplegic. His parents had died several years earlier while visiting some of their foundation’s humanitarian efforts in Honduras. The cause of the plane crash in which they were killed was never determined, neither was the cause of Chase’s acute onset paralysis. Chase had also lost a former lover in an auto accident. Chase leads a seemingly lonely life at the family estate, with only his longtime butler, Juliet (yes, a woman) to keep him company. Here again we have a man who, despite being financially secure and busy with various projects, has a void in his life. The Gordon family apparently owes Detective Schrade some favors. Chase was about to have the void in his life filled, one way or the other, by the arrival of Walter.
Juliet was an extraordinary and key secondary character. I love how she capably swept in and helped clean up some of damage that befell all of the men!
This story had so many great elements. Would the crimes of Alec’s father collide with those of the mafia? How would each of the men be affected by these crimes? Which men would end up falling in love? These questions were not clear from the get go, and the answers took a while to twig to, with many being a complete surprise. The two romantic pairings among the men developed plausibly, one over the long term, one over a shorter period of time. Both were equally genuine, palpable, and heartfelt. Wondering if the author was going to allow happiness for only one couple had me holding my breath.
Although not every plot point gets resolved, I was immensely pleased with the outcome. This is fine! Not all problems in life end up wrapped in a bow, and, as a reader, I also appreciated the chance to fill in some blanks myself. Although, these open ended threads would make the perfect set-up for a sequel. 😉
JS Cook is an author who is on my auto buy list. This distinct and gripping story is an excellent example of why.