Police Detective Chris is “asked” to take a look at a new murder case the Friday before his anniversary weekend celebration with husband Ethan. The murder victim: Coach James Stewart. The accused: Alex, a 17-year-old student whose confession doesn’t add up. Although promised otherwise, Chris is assigned a new partner, Geraldine, who is nothing like Chris’ last partner, a homophobe of the highest order.
Married and with a great home life and a husband who is incredibly supportive of Chris’ work, Chris is hell bent on figuring out who really murdered Stewart, because Alex could not have done it on his own. Chris and Geri pound the pavement and encounter lies, deceit, and omissions, which prevent any forward movement with the case, and a young man’s life is at stake.
When they get the break they have been looking for, it leads to more questions and Chris wonders where the answers will lead him, or rather who the answers will lead him to.
This is nothing like the other Jeff Erno books I have read, and although I have found Erno to address some pretty serious, deep, and perhaps controversial subjects in the past, this one was quite a switch. A murder mystery centered around a child molester, definitely a tough topic for anyone to stomach. There is some extremely well written dialogue and character interaction that actually had me laughing at all the right places, providing some levity, and not allowing the story to become too dark. This may sound a little heartless, but I assure you it was very well addressed and made the characters, all of them, that much more realistic.
The mystery part was extremely well done as I had no idea who the culprit was until the very end (and that, my friends is rare for me). In fact, I guessed two different people as the murderer and was wrong both times. The other thing that I found interesting is that there was a good deal of follow-up after the main conflict, leaving me a bit dumbfounded (in a good way) as the additional revelations unfolded. Erno did not just stop where it was easy, but rather added layers to the plot that enriched the reading experience for me.
I am a big fan of sarcasm and Erno nailed the tone in his writing, so I say “great job.” What I did not like was some of the awkward phrases like “a bottle of lubricant gel” instead of “lube,” or the “both were rock hard” instead of “they were both rock hard.” These phrases pulled me out of the story and just did not jive for me. There was also a spot in the book where I wondered “what happened to Geri?” We do find out, but it was like I missed something and had to go back to figure out what. The story also required a significant amount of first person narrative, or as I called it in my notes “A crap ton of tell,” which was necessary for the story but the sheer volume of information imparted in these monologues was daunting. Necessary, I guess, but daunting nonetheless.
I have to say that this is not my favorite of Erno’s work, but that does not mean that it is not a solid murder mystery that was well planned out and executed with great characters and a sick premise. If stories about underage molestation creep you out, I say avoid Secrets. Otherwise give this story a try and see if you can figure out whodunit.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.