Rating: 4.25 stars
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Robbery/Homicide Detective Beck Stryker is still finding his footing after losing his partner and best friend in a shooting and being shot himself. Still suffering from PTSD, an injured but slowly healing shoulder, and awkward moments with the fellow officer/ex who dumped him while he was still in the hospital, Beck is having a hard time readjusting to the job he has always loved. When a home invasion similar to the case that got his partner shot comes across his desk, Beck can’t help but want to pick up the old case and find justice for, or at least a reason for, the loss of his partner.
Forensic psychologist and FBI Profiler Dr. Zach Littman has his hands full with a former drug addict ex-boyfriend who’s having a hard time letting go of the past, a demanding job that requires constant travel and emotionally difficult situations, and a psychotic stalker/serial killer who – although he’s in jail – will not leave Zach in peace. When Zach receives the assignment to travel to Denver to work a high profile case, he’s both relieved and apprehensive. He and Stryker have a history, and he’s not so sure he’d be able to walk away from the man this time.
Although working together started rough, Beck and Zach soon learn to trust each other, at least where the case is concerned. The attraction between both men is still strong, but both are too stubborn to make the first move. When a trip to an old crime scene ends in gunfire, all inhibitions are thrown to the wind, and Beck and Zach let that attraction take over. But getting lost in a maze of incomplete evidence, crooked and conniving politicians, assissination attempts on both Beck’s and Zach’s lives, and fears and suspicions of one another, threaten to end the budding relationship. Though none of that will matter if the killer finds them first.
Wow! Just wow! I love a good procedural drama/not-too-easy romance/mystery, and what Whitley Gray has penned here is a really good one. I pretty much like everything about this book, but I have to say the villain is probably my favorite part. He’s evil. Like pure evil. And the things he does to get what he wants are horrifying and unforgivable. There’s not one likable thing about his person. But that’s the mark of a truly good writer, I think. Our villain (I don’t want to give anything away, although it’s blatant when reading the book who he is) is written so well. He’s what readers love to hate. He’s the character I love to see get his just desserts. He makes the heroes of this book…heroes.
Speaking of, I adore the heroes in this book. I have a thing for PTSD stories. The angst, the emotional trauma that these characters see and work to overcome – some overcome, some just learn to deal, some fight to move past – is what makes these characters so strong and so lovable. Beck is struggling with the loss of his best friend, the only man who knew the real Beck. He’s lost and trying to find himself. He’s an amazing man – giving, forgiving, understanding. But he’s far from perfect. Yet, still so perfect. Then there’s Zach – the patient, cunning, accepting man who has been hurt and haunted for too long. It’s hard for him to trust and he jumps to conclusions in his personal life, sabotaging himself and his relationship. The thing I love about these two the most is that are strong, stubborn, infuriating men who are only vulnerable with one another. They accept each other as they are. They’re great together.
The story that Gray has created is one in which the reader knows who the antagonist is from the beginning. The hunt for the villain is a spiderweb of clues and false leads and mysteries designed by this master of deception. The mystery is great. Seriously. The romance is really good too. Sweet and super sexy. This author knows how to lure me in and keep me wanting.
I don’t have too many issues about this story. There is one character flaw that I didn’t fully understand until the final few chapters. Zach was scared of the dark, afraid of tight, closed-in spaces and it wasn’t really clear why until closer to the end. It’s not a deal-breaker; it just would have been nice to have all the information earlier. Then I felt that the story ended a little too abruptly. I wanted more, maybe an epilogue to show me a little bit of the future. Did Beck come out? If he didn’t, is Zach okay with that? What about Zach’s hope for private practice? Maybe there will be more Zach and Beck in the future.
In the end, I really liked this story. The characters, all of them, are great. It’s a great read. And the mystery is exciting. I hope to read more of Beck and Zach someday. And maybe some Dean and Gif? I definitely recommend High Concept by Whitley Gray.