Friday, February 19, 2021

Gregory Ashe - Pretty Pretty Boys

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.

Comment: I admit I decided to try this book after seeing so many positive reviews, especially by readers whose opinion I trust. I knew this would not include a finished romance but I was eager to be captivated by a brand new series I could dedicate myself to...

In this series we follow detective Emery Hazard as he starts a new job in his hometown. He doesn't have any fond memories of his childhood and youth spent in the place and he got out as soon as he could but a problem in his previous work made him accept an offer from the last place he actually wanted to see again. However, at the same time, he feels he has unfinished business after all the bullying he suffered for being gay and because he still wants revenge on the three boys who were the reason why his best friend and potential first boyfriend Jeff, killed himself. That is why he returns but he was certainly not counting on the fact that his partner-to-be on the job is one of those bullies he so wants to interrogate... can he work with someone he remembers as an enemy? Can they fix their differences and work as a team to solve the crimes being committed recently?

I think the premise for this series is quite interesting. I already know things will eventually be solved in the following books, but this uncomfortable idea of having to work close with one of the guys the main character most hated through his life was really well thought. Even more so because Emery's feelings of the past aren't just about revenge and also because of the dynamics in place.

It goes without saying that this will be a slow burn type of series, where it takes time for the characters to come to be at the right point in their lives for things to work then. There is history between Emery and his partner in the force John Henry. The dynamics between them as the story moves along are small but clever. We only have hints about what happened in the past, why John Henry was a bully and what his motivations had to be for him to behave in a way we would immediately assume was unfair.

It does seem as if I'm giving a lot of emphasis to the relationship between the main characters but in truth, that is precisely what drives me to want to know what happens next. This reminds me a little of the Cormoran and Robin possibilities from Robert Galbraith's series in the sense that things will develop slowly as the series advances but with each installment, I have the feeling we will see more and more why the two of them are good partners, in all levels.

Of the to protagonists, I suppose we are led to be more supportive of Emery. It was actually pretty amazing to have both their POVs in alternate chapters because this allows us to continue with the plot having different ways of thinking of things. In a way, though, I feel it made it easier for me to suspect the villain even more... I wouldn't go as far as to say it was predictable, but certain clues certainly pointed in that direction...  

But back to the protagonists, Emery is clearly still living of anger and not letting go of what he still feels is due to him. I can understand him and his life choices but I also imagine that by letting go of his anger towards John Henry and even accepting his conflicting feelings for him (it's rather obvious 😄) will be the key to let him have a happy life. As for John Henry, he seems to be a certain way, laid back but too caring (as seen by his self punishment by being a drunk) so he doesn't know how to simply be whomever he wants to be...again, I can only expect his relationship with Emery will help him too. A true partnership!

Of course, this being a mystery series too, being the central one the uncovering of what truly happened to Jeff in the past, a good part of the plot is also dedicated to the crime investigations. In this first book, the theme was quite provoking, for it opposed those who believe communities like the LGBT one should be more forceful in demanding rights and equality and the (I suppose I can call it that) "white supremacists" who want the country free of all who are not people "of good". Since reality is still so raw over these types of fights, and with the rise of extreme right supports everywhere, it seems, the theme was obviously a worrisome one. Quite clever of the author, and the close look at reality makes the story even easier to grab onto, but at the same time, some passages weren't easy to read without feeling a little angry.

The book was good, some things I feel were dragging, some things were repeated a bit too much and now always with a clear intention and I also think some scenes weren't done with the right amount of angst or whatever emotion was more suitable. In that regard, here and there, I feel the author could have pushed things further without ruining the flow.

All things considered, I've become a fan of what this is promising to be and I'll certainly keep reading, although probably only closer to the end of the year...

Grade: 8/10

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