Fans of author Lloyd A. Meeker will remember the introduction of private investigator and recovering alcoholic, Russ Morgan, in his previous novella, Enigma. Gifted with empathic abilities and able to read auras, Russ is almost a human lie detector—able to perceive when a suspect is hiding something others may never see. In this latest installment, Blood & Dirt, Russ is once again in pursuit of the truth, this time investigating the destruction of a legal marijuana grow lab nestled on a farm whose owners have roots in the community that spans several generations.
Evan Landry and his sister, Sarah, are two of five siblings most of whom fight and hate in equal amounts. Unfortunately, they are also stepchildren of a man who never adopted them into the family, yet loved their mother and them fiercely. They are joined by the three original Ellis children, Stan Jr., a raging alcoholic, Marianne, a twisted and angry sister who refuses to believe her family’s halcyon days are over, and Billy, the one sibling who refuses to give in to the nasty jealousies that seem to occupy most of his sibling’s every waking moment.
While on the family farm, Russ finds himself truly challenged by the intense emotions that ricochet off the family group. There are times he must actually close his senses off in order to preserve his own inner peace and not be overwhelmed by the darkness that saturates the auras of those he has been engaged to investigate. To further stir his internal uneasiness, Russ has reluctantly begun a May/December romance with a young paralegal, Colin Stewart.
Before leaving to do his stint on the farm, Russ tries to make Colin aware of how uncertain he is about embracing this new relationship. Having been burned by a younger lover in the past, he is very conflicted about opening his heart to a man less than half his age. But Colin is wise beyond his years and very invested in trying to make something work with Russ. As the two spend time apart during the investigation, it becomes clear to Russ that Colin has more than gotten under his skin—he is, in fact, worming his way into the PI’s heart. Before long, what began as an inquiry into an act of extreme vandalism at the farm turns into murder—two of them in fact. Now, Russ must race to uncover the murderer before more family members are lost.
Perhaps the greatest gift this author has is the way he writes pictures with his lush and lyrical words and draws characters that push their way into our hearts and minds with such ease. There is undoubtedly such poetry in Meeker’s prose as he describes such simple things as a breath of fresh air or a peaceful sunny day on a farm. However, the poetry does not stop there, it infuses the internal dialogue of our hero and defines his thoughtful demeanor and his inner calm. Russ Morgan has such incredible compassion for those around him—even those who seek to harm and damage others. He can see the swirling mass of emotions inside each person he meets and recognizes bits of himself with every single contact. It is this, this deep well of kindness inside Russ, that Colin is drawn to.
Colin sees Russ for the man he is inside, the one who is fearful of falling in love again but so ready to love all the same. The playfulness that defines Colin is only heightened by his surety that Russ is the one he wants. Age difference aside, this man is the one Colin wants to risk his heart on. Their growing feelings for each other are the perfect foil for the complex mystery that unfolds on the farm. The hurt and anger that is so palpable between the siblings makes Russ realize just how important it is to grab every moment of happiness life offers—and, if that means taking a chance on losing his heart to Colin, so be it.
Blood & Dirt is a beautifully written story of love and second chances wrapped inside a diabolical mystery. This is the stuff by which amazing novels are defined: a charismatic and genuine hero, love and companionship, and a story that flows upon the page with complex and fast-paced action. I highly recommend this novel to you; it is a gorgeous novel from beginning to end.