This week’s Reading Challenge Month challenge is all about the New-to-Me Author Week. Me? I got super lucky and found a book (okay, it was recommended to me by my personal recommendation service) that had not one, but three new-to-me authors. And they were all ones I’d been wanting to try, but hadn’t yet found the time. And oh, am I so glad that I finally got the chance! I’ll definitely be looking into more stories by these authors.
Three novella length stories, three authors, each featuring police officers for the Parmas City Police Department Metropolitan Demonic Unit—or hell cops. Sometimes anthologies don’t live up to expectations. Sometimes there are stories included that miss the mark. Not so here. Hell Cop is a fantastic combination of stories and each one is incredibly satisfying. But let me break it down for you, so you can make the choice for yourself.
Next of Kin by Astrid Amara
When a dozen burned, half eaten, bloody children come into the emergency room, Brian Day thinks it’s just a normal day. Since moving to the city, he’s seen a lot of weird things. But he quickly learns that it’s not normal, and the demons who attacked the daycare are illegal. Demons are used in all walks of life, but they don’t attack people. Brian helps as he can, and speaks with a man who appears to be on fire. What’s surprising is he’s able to touch the man.
Detective Jay Yervant comes from one of the old sorcerous families, and his power is so huge it manifests in being able to burn skin if he touches it. He’s a hell cop because he wants to make a difference, but he has no connection to people as he has to hold himself apart. When he starts looking into the demon attack on the daycare, he finds one of the other old families involved. But there’s no way he can get close enough to the man he suspects; he’s too well guarded.
When Brian is put in danger too, Jay takes it upon himself to keep Brian safe. But Brian is mixed up in more things than even Jay knows. And when the reason Brian can touch Jay comes out, things get even more complicated. Someone is after Brian, and Jay wants nothing more to keep the man safe, not in the least because their attraction has bloomed into so much more.
This story was the perfect way to start the collection, and I found myself immediately drawn in. Amara has a wonderful, smooth style and it worked especially well in this story. A tale like this hinges on world building, and it was an introduction to an alternate reality where demons and magic exist. I liked the way the different aspects of the world were revealed in an organic away. The author had a perfect foil in Brian, as he grew up completely sheltered, but what was masterful here was there was no dumping of information. Everything was perfectly parceled out within the confines of the story, and it was really well done.
In addition to that, we had two great MCs. Brian was a wonderful mix of naïve and forward, and I found him utterly charming. Jay had baggage that was very understandable. My heart just hurt for him and his imposed but necessary isolation. These guys worked well together on every level, and I really enjoyed watching their relationship progress while also seeing the greater mystery unfold.
Amara has a winner with this story, and one I really enjoyed. Great world building, great characters, and a nicely paced plot. I’d definitely pick up other stories by this author.
Red Sands by Nicole Kimberling
Anthropologist Michael Gold has spent the last six months on one of the purgatory planes studying a group of demons. Since he’s half-demon himself, he’s able to withstand the climate. But as he takes the portal home to Parmas City, he inadvertently takes along a dead body. The body turns out to be his cousin, and he’s detained by officers of the Metropolitan Demonic Unit for questioning. One of the detectives, Argent, is someone Michael met once before. But though the men are physically attracted to each other, they know they shouldn’t act on it.
Michael is released from police custody only to discover his apartment has been ransacked. And that his father is missing. Under police protection once more, Michael tries to figure out what is going on. As the case gets ever more complicated, Michael and Argent grow closer. But when the truth comes out, Michael is directly in the line of danger, and Argent might not be able to keep him safe.
I really enjoyed the way this story unfolded. The mystery here was fairly complex, and I liked the way the clues were peppered in at exactly the right time, to be pulled together at the end for it all to make sense. This was, for me, the strongest part of the story and really worked well.
Both MCs were well drawn as well. Michael is the POV character, and I really liked how introspective he was. He knew himself well, and he spent some time analyzing his own thoughts and motivations. I liked seeing his deep thoughts and the way he viewed the world. Argent is a little more removed, but I loved his easy going nature and his care taking. These guys worked really well together. One thing I thought was particularly well done in regards to the romance was Michael’s mind-reading ability. It added a sensual layer to the MCs interactions that I really enjoyed.
This story didn’t have quite as much world building as the first, and it wasn’t exactly a detriment. We already have a good sense of the world from the first story, and since they are made to be read together, it worked fine. I liked that there were some cameos of characters from other stories. Overall, the story was well done and perfectly placed in its middle spot in the collection.
Touching Sparks by Ginn Hale
James Sparks has been infiltrating an illegal venom and demon fighting ring in order to collect evidence to bring to the police. His contact on the Demonic Unit is detective Ben Moran, whom he’s known for years. And wanted for just as long. But Ben has a history, and James knows that Ben will never look at him the way he wants. So he focuses on collecting evidence to bring down the ring.
Moran has a past, and he doesn’t ever want to get involved with another man. Especially not the sweet and younger James. He hates using James for information, but he knows he doesn’t have a choice. The info that James has brought him means they are close to prosecuting the leaders of the illegal drug and fight ring.
When tragedy strikes, Moran thinks he’s lost his chance with James and may lose his life as well. But it’s not all it seems, and James is able to track Moran down. Together they face a demon of immeasurable power. And if they survive, they’ll have everything they wanted: the illegal ring destroyed and to be with each other.
What I particularly liked about these three tales is that, even though they were written by three different authors, they all built on one another. Hale’s story finishes out the collection nicely. Ben Moran made cameos in the first two stories, and that really ramped up my anticipation of reading this last story in the collection. We had been given glimpses of him in the other two, got to see a bit of his personality, and now we finally get to see the layers beneath his gruff exterior and the reasons behind the way he is. This worked for me on a lot of levels, and I really enjoyed the character.
James was the perfect counterpoint to Moran. He was sweet and gentle, but tenacious and caring, and I just adored him. I loved his determination and his conviction, and I loved the way he fit together with Moran. I would have actually liked to see a bit more of this, as their chemistry just sparked off the page. Whenever they were in each other’s presence, their attraction and connection was palpable.
I also liked that there was a little bit of a twist to this story, and things weren’t exactly what they seemed. It didn’t progress exactly like I thought it would, but it was so fitting and right for the story. Hale’s story left me wanting more, not because anything was missing, but because I wanted to stay with the characters and in their world. It was the perfect end to the collection.
This review is part of our September Reading Challenge Month for New-to-Me Author Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win a fabulous prize from Interlude Press. One lucky winner will receive a selection of signed print books, as well as a variety of ebooks by authors new to Interlude Press this year. Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing grand prize sponsored by Dreamspinner Press (a loaded Kindle fire filled with DSP books!). You can get more information on our Challenge Month here, and more details on New-to-Me Author Week here. And be sure to check out our prize post for more about the awesome prizes!