Paxton Boyle and his twin boys are out rock hunting when they run across a human bone, a find that causes Pax to switch from father mode to forensic scientist and call in the police. One bone leads to another and before long an entire skeleton has been unearthed and sent to Paxton’s lab. As Paxton works to establish identity, one thing is immediately clear — the person was murdered. Then the cadaver dog and its handler turn up more bones, and then more from another. And the race is on to find a serial killer before he or she strikes again.
And as Pax’s work hours lengthen, he must find someone to watch his boys after school and on the weekends he is working. Pax’s wife walked out on them two years ago and with his housekeeper’s daughter expecting her first child, he turns to Jordan Leonard, the boys’ schoolteacher and friend. Pax and Jordan have established an uneasy friendship since the Boyle family returned to town. Years ago, Pax and Jordy were lovers in college, happy until Pax’s father broke them up by forcing Pax to marry a business partner’s daughter in a merger of families and businesses. A heartbroken Jordy left college immediately and Pax had not seen him since their bitter parting until Pax, Jenny, and the kids returned to their home town.
Pax and Jordan still have feelings for each other but Pax is an honorable man and still considers himself married, despite Jenny’s absence. And for Jordan, Pax’s betrayal of their love still hurts after all this time. As more and more bodies are found, Pax’s longer hours bring Jordan closer into their family circle and their attraction to each others gets stronger. How much longer will Pax be able to keep to his promises to stay an honorable man?
Kendrick does a wonderful job of weaving the story of a past love rekindled with a forensic tale of murder. He skillfully builds the anticipation and interest as first Pax and his boys (what charmers) find the first bone on a rock hunt. Then as more skeletons are unearthed, it becomes clear that the police and Pax’s forensic unit have a serial killer on their hands. Theories are bandied about and clues discovered as the story continues, spending as much time in Pax’s lab or with the police officers hunting the killer as it does with the romance of Pax and Jordan. I liked this technique but for others it might take too much time away from the love story of the two main characters. Kendrick does tie the two together in a neat twist that I loved, plus I enjoyed the murder mystery aspect of the book.
The love story brought up questions and I think I had more problems with that section of the plot. I did get the part where Pax was not brave enough and perhaps old enough to stand up to his father when he and Jordy first got together. But Kendrick didn’t give me enough of the mature Pax’s feelings about Jordy to make their sudden romance entirely believable. Same for Jordan, a character I really enjoyed. Jordan left that college he attended with Pax for another, completed his degrees and came home to teach, his bitterness over Pax’s cowardliness still very much alive years later. The author tells us they have become friends since being reunited at a parent/teacher conference but gives us little evidence except for the fact that Pax leaves the boys in Jordy’s care when necessary. Neither man has ever talked about their previous affair nor is either man out to the community. This is not a “gay for you” story as both men are definitely gay from the start. But both Pax and Jordy seemed lacking a few layers to make both men totally believable in the context of the story. Who did I believe in? The boys. I loved Denny and Danny. With spot on dialog and wonderful characteristics, Kendrick needs to make those boys the main characters of a series of YA novels. They would be a hit! With their passion for rocks and bones, especially fossils, those 12-year-olds were easily the most authentic personas here.
And that leaves me with the ending that had far too many loose ends. I hesitate to tell you what exactly remained unfinished as that enters spoiler territory and perhaps Kendrick plans a sequel to finish the mystery he started here. All good mysteries have the same basic elements: who, what, when, where, and why. Not all those questions are answered leaving this reader a tad frustrated. At a novella length, the ending came in a rush, which was surprising considering the time the author took getting us to that point. I think you will feel a little shortchanged by this story, I know I did. But the parts that irked me are balanced by the portions that kept me enthralled and totally entertained. And that’s enough for me to give this a recommendation.