Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
To most people who meet him, Tom Paretski is an average guy, working as a plumber in a small English village. But Tom also has a special skill that keeps him on the police speed dial. He can find things that are hidden – whether that is your secret porn stash or a dead body. He feels himself called to these hidden objects, especially when he opens up his mind to hear them. Tom has had this talent since he was a child and discovered a dead body in the park, and now the police have asked for his help in finding another one.
The deceased, Melanie, turns out to be the girlfriend of one of Tom’s schoolmates and now the police are turning their eyes toward her boyfriend Graham as the key suspect. Making things even worse, however, is the reappearance of another schoolmate, Phil Morrison, who is working the case as a private investigator on behalf of Melanie’s family. Tom had a crush on Phil back in school, but Phil was part of the crowd of bullies who teased Tom for being gay. Now to Tom’s shock it turns out the Phil is out of the closet himself. Not only that, but he wants Tom’s help on the case as he investigates different suspects, hoping Tom can determine if they are hiding something important. But it is hard for Tom to let go of the past hurts and it seems like every encounter with Phil leaves the two of them snapping at one another. However, the attraction is still there on Tom’s part and to his surprise, it is soon clear that Phil wants Tom as well. But the men must figure out if they can put the past behind them and make something work between them now, all while tracking a dangerous killer who wants to keep them quiet.
So first off, I just loved Tom. He is our narrator for the story and quite a riot. I loved his sense of humor, his bit of self-deprecation, and the energy in his descriptions. It is clear he loves his community and we get wonderfully rich details about the villages, the scenery, and the people who live there. I loved how he is a mix of everyday person combined with having these unique skills of perception. And it really is an interesting ability. In some ways it is an entertaining skill, the ability to find all those sex toys hidden in the bedroom. But it is also a hard one, being drawn to the secrets of your friends, not to mention the stress of finding dead bodies and other hidden horrors. Even though he is used to it, it is clear that seeing death first hand is still not easy for Tom. I was amused that Tom can sense hidden water as well, a great asset to a plumber looking for a leak!
Tom and Phil have a really interesting relationship. There is some serious history between them, things that still haunt both men. And when they first meet, both are incredibly prickly around one another. Tom still has some resentment toward Phil, mixed with an attraction that hasn’t gone away over the years. And Phil is short and tense with Tom, something Tom attributes to Phil’s continued dislike of Tom stemming from school. I really appreciated how Merrow gives them a slow build to their relationship. There is too much baggage there to accept these guys immediately falling in love or jumping into bed together. Instead we see them take small steps of getting to know each other once again, accepting mistakes from the past, opening themselves up to friendship and then more. I really felt I could believe in these guys and their relationship as it develops over the course of the book. I do wish the story went a teeny bit further with Tom and Phil though. We get to the point of a nice HFN, but I would love to see more of them. I must say I would be thrilled to see Merrow turn this into a series with Tom and Phil solving mysteries. I just loved them together!
Most of the story in fact focuses on the mystery of Melanie’s death and Phil and Tom’s investigation. They make an amusing team, with Phil this huge mountain of a man, gruff and stoic, and Tom the charmer who warms up the ladies and gets folks comfortable. And I got a laugh over Tom’s worry that his constant requests to use the bathroom (and thereby snoop around a suspect’s house) were going to gain him a reputation for incontinence around the village. The mystery here was interesting and kept me well engrossed, never guessing the killer until the end. I loved all the townspeople we meet along the way and seeing the investigation in a small village rather than the usual big city police case. We could really feel how invested both Tom and Phil were in finding the killer, knowing their friend was considered a suspect.
Overall I really enjoyed this one. I think Merrow gives us a great combination of mystery and romance. I loved Tom and really enjoyed his humor and narrative voice. And as always with Merrow’s books, we get a wonderful British feel that just made me get immersed in the story. Great job, really entertaining.