John Dakota is a bear shifter and Chief of Police in Seaside, Oregon. He’s 29, really young to be Chief of Police, but he has the job like his father before him. Seaside has lots of shifters because original shifters moved there a century ago and this sleepy tourist town has become a safe haven.
Nine years ago there were a series of murders that were completely bizarre. Tourists and townsfolk were butchered in ways that indicated a mad shifter. Most of the grisly details were kept out of the public’s information, so when new victims begin turning up following the same brutal pattern, John’s really upset. The last killer is dead, but the new one is likely to be (again) someone he knows well.
John’s got himself a regular hook-up buddy, Trevor English, who’s a reporter for their town’s newspaper. He wants the information on the murders, and John in his bed every night. They get along well, but John can’t risk revealing his true self to Trevor—what would the man do with that information? However, the stress of the case sends John to Trevor for comfort and sexytimes.
For me, the mystery was one part of the book that was done well. John’s a rather lackluster character and the writing felt ponderous and repetitive. John pretty much keeps repeating how he wants a man for keeps, but not. How he’s a loner, but there’s all these people around. Warning Trevor time and again how they aren’t serious. He’s got no commitment, and that was irritating. He seems to feel sorry for himself a lot, and that wasn’t endearing. I really struggled to care even a little about him. The murders are gross, truly, and that’s not my fave stuff to read. I’ve read dozens of police procedurals and shifter investigations—so I know they have graphic descriptions. Here, I felt the shock value was the big goal. As each body was described, I got more disgusted. I also found it kind of strange how John was able to clock out, after spending all day hunting missing persons he knew were likely being tortured or mutilated, and go get some sexy on. That disconnect, for me, was troubling.
What saved the book for me: John got honest with Trevor—who is a great guy. John’s big reveal wasn’t his choice, but he does it well, and that cemented a bond between them. The unraveling of the mystery was pretty good, and I liked that Trevor took a big role in that. At the beginning of the book we have a lonely cop with a guilty conscience, and at the end John’s got a man, and closer friends/family than before. That’s always nice, but it didn’t help me overcome the issues I had with characterization and plot. This is the beginning of a series, and I’m on the fence regarding wanting to read on. As I haven’t read much by this author, I’d probably try one more book, to see if this one wasn’t to my taste, but others could be.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.