A vicious and deadly hate crime brings the idyllic life Tyler shared with his husband Spence to a crashing halt one summer evening. On the date of their first anniversary together, the two partners find themselves brutally accosted in the dog park restroom and only Tyler survives the night. Nearly fatally injured himself, three long weeks pass with Tyler laying in a coma while life moves forward around him, including the burial of his husband. Now Tyler must face a future without the love of his life and begin to deal with the all-consuming anger and need for revenge—for payback.
Detective Christian Martin is assigned to the case and from the very beginning it is obvious his determination to solve the hate crime turned murder is also peppered with a deep attraction he feels for Tyler. But Tyler’s grief and anger run deep and his focus remains on catching those who did this unspeakable thing to him and Spence, leaving love or even the hint of a relationship out of the question. However, Chris is determined that Tyler will not cut himself off and does everything he can to bring Tyler back into the land of the living.
Payback by John Inman is a love story wrapped up in the arms of a detective story. Once again, I am struck by the strength of this author’s voice that always lends his characters a sense of realness, of believability. They are in so many ways, the men who live next-door, their emotions and lives producing a visceral reaction in the reader and their story solidly capturing the imagination. Due to Inman’s ability to tap into key emotions, the reader is able to understand and almost feel the pain Tyler goes through, not only during his assault but also after, when the world becomes so big and so scary without Spence at his side. The raw feelings of terror and the violence of the crime in the beginning chapters and their juxtaposition to the glimpse of a night of languid and gorgeous lovemaking between Spence and Tyler is riveting and a real shock to one’s system. Then the accompanying anger and despair that Tyler experiences upon awakening from his coma is almost too much to bear up under.
The beauty of a John Inman novel is the sense that you are the third participant in the room. His characters come to life and draw us in, allowing us to experience the gamut of emotions and events that take place in one of his stories. Perhaps the only weakness in this well written crime novel/romance was in the actual ending and wrap up of a crime that Tyler himself ends up committing. While the premise for how Chris opted to deal with Tyler’s admission was reasonable, I felt just a slight disappointment in the way it was handled. It felt a bit out of character in my opinion. However, in the overall scope of this beautifully tragic love story that tiny glitch was a minor point.
Payback by John Inman is a deeply satisfying foray into murder mystery territory, however, the true magic of this novel lay in the message that even a loss of love, one can discover how to learn to love again.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.