Percival Endicott Whyborne studies comparative languages at Widdershin’s Ladysmith Museum. He spends most of the time hiding in his office or the musty library, avoiding everyone but his best friend Christine. Whyborne is awkward and uncomfortable and considers himself dull and unappealing. His coworkers aren’t particularly friendly and take pleasure in mocking him. So when he is asked to assist in a murder investigation by handsome private detective Griffin Flaherty, Whyborne just wants to do the job and be done with it.
Griffin is investigating the death of a young man who sent his father an encrypted journal right before he was killed. Griffin needs Whyborne’s extensive language skills to help crack the cipher and translate the ancient language. Whyborne hopes to decipher the journal quickly and go back to his quiet office, away from the alluring Griffin. But slowly he gets pulled into the investigation, helping Griffin on the case and learning more about the magic held within the journal and the horrific cult that has dangerous plans for its use.
As they continue to work together, Whyborne begins to let down his walls. Since the death of his friend as a young man, Whyborne has repressed all his feelings of attraction toward men (or pretty much anyone), blaming himself for Leander’s death. Yet he can not help but be drawn to the alluring Griffin, and although he can not fathom what Griffin possibly sees in him, it soon becomes clear that Griffin has feelings for him as well. As the two men get closer to finding out what the cultists are after, they uncover greater and greater horrors. Before they know it, both their lives are at risk and the very fate of the world hangs in the balance.
So before I get too far, I will tell you this is going to be one of those “stop what you are doing and run” kind of reviews. As in, if you are one of the poor souls who has not yet read Widdershins, stop what you are doing and run to your nearest book selling location and get it immediately. I am embarrassed to say that this is my first reading of this fabulous book, despite hearing nothing but glowing recommendations for it ever. But now that I have rectified that, I feel that it is my job to make sure none of you miss out as well, because this one was just fabulous.
I absolutely adored Hawk’s combination of historical, paranormal, thriller, and romance here. This story takes place in the town of Widdershins in New England, founded by a man fleeing the Salem witch trials and filled with some wealthy and powerful men (Whyborne’s father being one of them). The story takes place in 1897, a time when they still used gas lamps and sometimes carriages, but it is also still not totally removed from modern life. Mixed into that is a bit of the paranormal, with cults and magic, horrific creatures conjured from hybrids of men and beast, and resurrection of dead bodies. Hawk brings these two elements of historical and paranormal together so well, creating a investigative thriller that is fascinating, exciting, and sometimes terrifying. The story unfolds so well as we slowly uncover the mysteries of the journal, the cult and their plans, and the true hell they will unleash. It is just so well done and such a wonderful melding of all these genres.
What is at the heart of the story, however, is our two heroes. Seriously, I could not love these guys more. Hawk makes them both a combination of strong and vulnerable, two men who were surviving on their own, but thrive under each other’s love. Poor Whyborne. He is brilliant, speaks 13 languages, and is an expert in his field. But his sense of self worth is just horrible. He thinks himself awkward, unattractive, worthless, and unappealing. Growing up with a father and brother who did nothing but disparage him, then colleagues who do the same, he has no confidence in himself at all. Not to mention that he has withdrawn from life since Leander’s death and basically is in existence mode until he meets Griffin. Griffin, on the other hand, comes across as much more together. He is gorgeous and confident, smart and brave. But he has demons in his past, experiences that still haunt him and scars that are not all healed. Seeing these two men find one another, and through their connection both begin to heal, is just so wonderful. These two men are both so brave, pushing past their own boundaries and doing whatever it takes, even at risk to their own lives and sanity. Together they are so sweet, romantic, and sexy, and they make such a fabulous couple. I just adored them.
So yes, this story was amazing. Everything I had been told to expect and more. Thrilling, fascinating, romantic, sexy, suspenseful, and clever. I loved every minute of it and could hardly put it down. Hawk has created such an amazing world here and I can not wait to continue exploring it over the series.
P.S. I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on the awesomeness that is Christine, Whyborne’s friend and coworker. She is amazing — wonderful friend to Whyborne, brilliant woman in a field most think should be reserved for men, brave, and unflappable in a crisis. She is fabulous and I am thrilled to see that she continues to join these guys in future adventures across the series.