Cadell Meredith is a medical student and totally dedicated to developing his skills. So much so that he has been known to dig up bodies buried in pauper’s graves to use for his own at-home dissection practice. Cadell figures he isn’t hurting anyone, and it is important for him to gain the skills to save future lives. One night, Cadell brings home a body only to realize that is isn’t the typical poor, unclaimed soul. This is clearly the body of a wealthy young man who has been murdered and dumped into another grave so no one will realize he has been killed. For some reason Cadell can’t even explain to himself, he is compelled to try to figure out who this young man is and who killed him.
Cadell is usually careful, but he has caught the eye of Blaine Breton, a member of the new police force. Breton is determined to track down the thieves who are stealing bodies, or worse, killing people to sell the bodies to others. Although Breton has nothing on Cadell, he is clear he is watching the man and Cadell must be cautious. At the same time, Cadell is still undertaking the secret investigation into the young man’s murder, one that has him crossing paths with Breton, as well as in frequent danger as he interviews suspects and tries to figure out who is behind it all. Cadell is closing in on the killer, but Breton might be closing in on him. Cadell needs to stay one step ahead, which is getting increasingly difficult the more time he spends around the handsome police officer.
So this story grabbed my attention as a mystery/suspense with an enemies to lovers component. I love this theme and it seems like a perfect fit, pitting a criminal and a cop together and ultimately seeing them fall for one another. In the end, one of these elements worked great for me and the other fell somewhat flat.
What works here wonderfully is the mystery element. It is twisty and well developed and moves in a variety of directions. Cadell makes a great amateur sleuth. He is clever and pretty fearless and frankly doesn’t have a lot of pesky conscience to stop him from lying, stealing, and breaking into places he shouldn’t. Although the story does definitely give time to Cadell’s role as a medical student, the mystery of who killed young Robert is the strongest plot in the book and the major focus of the story. I enjoyed seeing Cadell putting the pieces together, sneaking in and out of places and managing to figure things out that even the police couldn’t discover. This part of the story is clever and very well done, and if you are looking for a good mystery, I definitely think this book delivers.
Where it didn’t work so well for me is on the romance end. There is just not nearly enough of these guys together at all to really even call this a romance, to be honest. The story is told from Cadell’s POV, so we only see Breton when the two cross paths. And in the first half of the book, this means Breton is on page maybe three times. The two meet, they dance around each other as Breton tries to figure out what Cadell is up to and catch him for the body stealing, and then they separate. Cadell’s investigation of the case is the vast majority of the storyline, and that is something he does alone or with the help of some friends. Breton isn’t a part of this plot at all until the very end of the book. So there is just not nearly enough of him to develop any kind of connection between these guys for the vast majority of the story. Not only do the two not have much interaction with each other, but there isn’t really even that heat or sexual tension that is such a great part of your typical enemies to lovers story. Yes, Cadell finds Breton attractive, but he finds lots of guys attractive during the course of the book, even having a sexual encounter with one of them, and there is little to suggest until the very end of the book that Breton is any different from any man he finds good looking. At one point I actually wondered if maybe I misread the blurb and Breton wasn’t the love interest after all, that is how underdeveloped the relationship is between them for most of the story.
Now at the end, things come together, and we get that glimmer of how things could be between them, and it was great. But frankly, it made me even more disappointed because these guys could have been awesome together. Breton is stiff and rule following and very sexually inexperienced. And Cadell is much more free and open and casual. They could have pushed each other to think beyond their rigid views. I couldn’t help but think how the story would have been improved if we saw them investigating together, working as a team to figure out the murders. We get a taste of that as they pair up to catch some bad guys at the end, but it could have been so much more. Or even just having their relationship develop at the same time as Cadell is sneaking off investigating and seeing the complications that causes. I am really not trying to rewrite the book here, but seeing this little glimpse of these guys together just made me even more disappointed at how little we get of them throughout the book. There is just so little relationship development, sexual tension, or anything else to make this really feel like a romance.
I had a few other smaller issues as well. First off, Cadell isn’t the easiest guy to like. On one hand, I admired the strength of his convictions, his dedication and determination once he puts his mind to something. But he isn’t the world’s most moral guy. He can’t even begin to see why stealing a dead body out of a grave might be a bad thing. He thinks everyone else is too superstitious or sentimental to get worked up over a body, as if being upset because someone steals your loved one out of the ground and cuts him up for practice is absurd. Cadell has no problem lying, breaking in places, or even casually stealing for his own gain. I actually don’t necessarily have a problem with bad guy heroes, but I guess I wanted a little more acknowledgment of his behavior, or to see him with some contemplation of it. He also has no issue using his friends for help in dangerous tasks, even one that is clearly still attracted to him. At times Cadell seems annoyed that Dylan won’t just help him without the accompanying emotional baggage. So I definitely didn’t dislike him, but he is a hard character to really fall for completely. At the same time, we barely get to know Breton at all. He seems likable and dedicated to his job, but we just don’t get a chance to spend enough time with him to learn much about him other than his determination to catch the thieves and his love for his sister.
I was kind of torn on the rating here. This story is a solid mystery. It did go on a little long and at times I had trouble following all the characters involved, but it kept my attention and is really well done. The historical elements are interesting, particularly with regard to the practice of medicine and police investigations of the time. It just didn’t bring enough of the romance to really satisfy me. The set up was perfect here for a great enemies to lovers story between two very different guys, and it just didn’t deliver on that promise. Still, if you are looking for a good mystery, this is definitely one to consider.