Dumped by his parents when he was 14 and born with an Oddity that allows him to draw memories from objects, Elliot Leed had few options and prostitution was the lesser of the available evils. At least he’s been able to live under the radar and away from a government who prowls for those with Oddities. But an abusive and powerful client is making life hard and Elliot finds himself looking for a way out, without really knowing where to start. Then he meets Derwin Bryant, a bounty hunter who hires him for the night.
Their attraction is immediate and powerful and eventually Elliot discovers that Derwin has an Oddity of his own, further fueling their connection. But Derwin is also a man on a mission – his boyfriend was murdered two years prior and Derwin can’t rest until he finds the killer. Using Elliot’s unique Oddity, Derwin is able to resurrect desperately needed clues and so begins a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a determined killer. Elliot knows Derwin is a good man and they might have a future together, but they will have make peace with their individual demons and stop a murderer first.
Murder Once Seen was a somewhat uneven, but ultimately enjoyable novel. An unusual mix of dystopia and demonology, the world building in this novel is what drew me in first and foremost. The shadows of former cities in America still exist, but they are separated by untamed wilderness inhabited by demons that also prowl the waterfronts. Additionally, people are born with Oddities, genetic mutations that allow for super strength, telepathy, and so on. But many hide in fear from the government, who force Oddities into the military. Overall, the world building in Murder Once Seen is limited; there is so much we aren’t told, but the information we are given is compelling and while some of the themes are well trodden, they tend to work here.
Most of the characters in Murder Once Seen are adequately developed and while the relationship between Derwin and Elliot falls dangerously close to insta-love, their romance is still generally sweet. Derwin comes off a bit selfish as he constantly takes advantage of Elliot’s gift, but his reasons for doing so are understandable. Elliot is far from fragile and it’s easy to champion his strength in dealing with multiple challenges.
The mystery is one of the book’s weak points. It is stiff and formulaic and often feels like a plot device for the wider romance between Elliot and Derwin. The pacing is also slightly stale and it tends to ebb and flow awkwardly. The entire structure to Murder Once Seen is fine, but just a hair off. The author almost seems uncomfortable in their own world rather than having a firm command of it. This does appear to be the first in series, so perhaps this will improve with future volumes.
Murder Once Seen was a solid romance with a fairly intriguing world built behind it. The pacing and some of the other elements need bolstering and evening out, but there is enough here to entertain most readers who enjoy urban fantasies.