Tuesday, May 14, 2024

JL Merrow - Pressure Head

Tom Paretski’s not just a plumber with a dodgy hip courtesy of a schoolboy accident. He also has a sixth sense for finding hidden things. Called in by the police to help locate a body near Brock’s Hollow, he’s staggered to encounter Phil Morrison, his old school crush—and the closeted bully whose actions contributed to Tom’s accident.
Phil’s all grown up now, and Tom’s unwilling attraction to him is back with a vengeance. Phil’s now openly gay—and what’s more, he’s interested in Tom’s personal charms as well as his psychic talents. As a private investigator called in by the dead woman’s parents, Phil is sceptical about Tom’s unusual gift, but nevertheless quick to spot its potential to aid him in his work.
The further they go with the investigation, the less they can ignore their shared past, and the more the pressure and the heat build between them. But Tom isn’t certain he wants to know the secrets he’s helping to uncover, while there’s a murderer on the loose who won’t hesitate to kill again—and this uneasy couple is moving right into his sights.

Comment: I've decided to try this story after seeing some positive reviews and the premise made me curious enough: a plumber who has some mild psychic abilities teams up with a private investigator who happens to have been one of his old school bullies...

Tom Paretski is a normal guy with a normal job but he has this weird ability to sense hidden things. His police friend Dave asks his help with a case and that is how Tom reconnects with Phil, his former school bully and the first guy he had a crush on. Phil is now openly gay, which makes his homophobic gestures in the past something understandable, but nevertheless a terrible memory for Tom, even more so because it was due to it that he had an accident which caused his limp. Tom and Phil agree to try to see if they can find some information for Phil's case, but Tom can't help being charming and helpful, perhaps too much, placing him in sometimes complicated positions when talking to others... but will his help prove necessary? And what will happen between Tom and Phil after all these years?

I will confess that reading the blurb made me create certain expectations about how this story would be and I thought the combination of romance and cozy investigation would have been slightly more charming. It turns out that the mystery wasn't that complicated but I struggled to remain focused on what was happening, and, I'd say, part of why was my lack of time to read this in a more consecutive progression but also the jarring writing options here and there.

The beginning was quite promising because Tom is a regular guy and he doesn't have any glamorous work or life situation and I was quite interested to see how this would be a part of his personality or development. I liked the whole setup of why he decided to become a plumber and I thought that his old story with the bullies and the accident which caused his limp would have more attention. In truth, things weren't as simple but also not as exploited as that. I think the author really intended to make this a story where the reader would infer stuff from actions, that notion of the "show, don't tell" but I felt some things were too subtle or too vague for this tactic to feel a good choice for me.

Perhaps it's safer to say that I didn't engage with the characters or the story as easily because the writing was a little hard to get into sometimes. Clearly, this is a British author writing very British words in a very British style (meaning, with idiomatic expressions and wording related to British English) and I'll say a few passed me by and others were too strong and constant (the constant drink of tea in every social occasion, the use of expressions such as "darling" or "dear" in dialogues) that instead of putting me in the move and the feel of a British environment, kept reminding me of precisely that and I got distracted.

Likely, this a personal problem and not one related to the story itself, but there was a time I just could not get past that. At the same time, the plot went on, the mystery was related to a woman's body and of course the investigation approached those closer to her... I can appreciate the author's choices of making this a simplistic plot, but the red herrings were just too convenient and some secondary characters felt caricatures... or maybe they were meant to be distracting? Either way, I wasn't really focused on the mystery and discovering who was the culprit didn't make me any happier I was reaching the end.

I was also betting my enjoyment on the romance development but two things made it seem less vibrant than what I hoped for: first, the story is narrated only by Tom and while I liked him overall and his "voice, of course his views on the past and about Phil were too limited and I've finished the book very unsure about whether they could have a future together or not. Second, I don't really consider that they spoke enough about what had happened and abut other situations in their lives to make their romance a solid one, now. I guess the fact there are more books might address this, but I can't say I feel that curious now, to keep reading...

I guess I wanted a little more angst, a little more emotional development, and perhaps a third person narrator might have helped, or if the story were to be more about the romance/personal issues with the mystery as a secondary element.... I don't really mind the narrative style or the intention, but the execution didn't wow me... I feel the details I wanted to see explored weren't so, or not the way i imagined... I might read the second book one day, but now I'm doubtful about how rewarding the series might be in the end.....
Grade: 6/10


  1. It's always interesting to read reviews of the same book, written by different readers. A couple of years ago, I read this review of this book, written as a TBR Challenge review by Caz of All About Romance; it seems she hasn't reviewed any other books in the series since.

    I was intrigued by the blurb and liked the writing voice, until the fatphobia started showing. Ah well, one can't win them all.

    1. It is very difficult to explain "vibes" lol, but to me the overall feel of the story wasn't as compelling as I wanted.
      Perhaps another book by the author at a later date might prove better.