While Hazard struggles with his new reality (changing dirty diapers, just to start), a bizarre murder offers a distraction. John Oscar Walden, the leader of a local cult, is found dead by the police, and the case falls to Hazard and Somers. The investigation takes the two detectives into the cult’s twisted relationships and the unswerving demands of power and faith.
But the deeper Hazard looks into the cult, the deeper he must look into his own past, where belief and reason have already clashed once. And as Hazard struggles to protect the most vulnerable of Walden’s victims, he uncovers a deeper, more vicious plot behind Walden’s murder, and Hazard finds himself doing what he never expected: racing to save the killer.
Only, that is, if Somers doesn’t need him to babysit.
Comment: This is the 5th installment in the Hazard and Somerset series by Gregory Ashe. Again, I enjoyed reading another book in the series which keeps them pretty much at the same level in how much I appreciate them.
In this story the two protagonists are now living together and have admitted their relationship to others, meaning they don't hide they are a couple. Of course there are still plenty of issues to be dealt with in their personal lives and that affects some of their reactions but now there's a new case to investigate and they need to give their attention to it. The problem is that the case is one involving a cult and one person they help is a young man, who seems to have been brainwashed by the other members, something that makes Hazard feel something personal and he tries his best to guide the boy in a better direction. However, the twists are just beginning...
This is the fifth book I read in this series and I have concluded that, in general, they have pretty much the same style and tone. Of the five, I can't say I have a favorite for any specific reason... so far, I would say the previous one has to be the one readers would say the personal relationship advanced the most but in terms of plot and twists, I kind of liked this one better. This to say, it feels the series is quite balanced, nothing stands out too much.
This said, I think it's important to mention too how much of an investment this has to be because I don't think these books should be read out of order. The crime investigation and so on perhaps yes, but the two protagonists are so closely linked to their personal and mutual paths that reading out of order could be confusing, if one felt truly invested.
In this book the plot is centered on the investigation of a cult member's death. I know cults aren't exclusive of America but this story's setting being there, I can't help thinking about many other religious cults known, especially in real life, which are based in some American state. It's just interesting that in a country with strong protestant and catholic roots, there are so many sects and cults and organizations that use religion as a means to be different. I think the psychology of how this all works is fascinating, but I bet this would not be how those who have escaped it would characterize them.
I don't think the author went too far into cult identity here, after al the plot is more centered on the crime than on the cult itself. It also seemed that the cult had a very limited number of members and what made them a cult was generic enough to not make it distinguished enough. I actually thought we would get more of this but the path taken by the story was another. Still, the whole cult dynamics and how fae some members were in how they saw the cult's purpose was information enough, I suppose.
I feel pity the plot went the road it did in regards to the young man Hazard felt a connection with. I wish things had been done differently but I can see why it would be possible for such a situation to happen. Also, there's a twist close to the end, and I didn't see it coming... it was nice to connect the dots when the truth was revealed, yes, but there were secondary issues which I feel could have been done better.
As for Hazard and Somerset's relationship, it's obvious they still have things to work out, they aren't yet fully able to relax in their skin while thinking about the other one but it was surprising to see how apparently easy they went public. Everyone knows, they demonstrate their affection in public (within the morally and socially acceptable, I mean!) and their co workers tease them about it. I don't have a problem with this, it's actually fun and positive it is being portrayed but... after so much pining and angst from the past, despite their doubts here and there, despite their personalities...it felt so... easy, how the whole thing just settled.