Austin Gallagher’s father is a private investigator who has gone missing while on a case in Savannah. Austin has been trying to get information on his father’s disappearance, but the police are no help and he is getting roadblocks wherever he turns. When Austin meets Derek, a local to the city, Derek begins to help him track down his father. In addition, Derek offers some insight into the local community, including the incredible influence of a family known as the Vandershals.
As the men dig deeper in to the mystery of what happened to Austin’s father, they learn more about the powerful Vandershals and the fear they inspire in Savannah. They also begin to discover that there is a dark past to the family that connects with witches and the occult. Each step they take in solving the disappearance brings them deeper into this mysterious world. The men have also found themselves on the Vandershal’s radar, and the family is determined to protect their secrets, even at the expense of people’s lives.
Coveted has an interesting premise and the blurb grabbed my attention right away. I think author Jason Collins has done a nice job with the setting here and made a great effort to have the city of Savannah come to life and be a key part of the story. There are great descriptions of the scenery and atmosphere that add a lot to the book. I will also say that despite my issues with both the plot and the writing style, I found myself engaged enough in the story to want to continue with the book and see how it all developed and resolved. Unfortunately, however, I had some significant problems with this book almost right from the start.
First off, the writing style here just didn’t really work for me. There is so much telling versus showing, it overwhelmed the book. Everything was just spelled out — how the characters were feeling, what they were thinking, what they thought other people were thinking. Everything is stated in what felt like a very heavy handed way, with no subtly or layering, which made the book read very flat and simplistic. I also found it weirdly off-putting that the characters constantly use each other’s names in conversation, even when they are talking to only each other. Not like they are trying to get each other’s attention or something, just repeatedly using names in conversation, like “But there may be other things we need to consider, Austin.” It just made the writing awkward and again feel simplistic to me, as this is not the way most people actually talk. There are also several places where the same information is repeated over again that we had just learned, sometimes earlier in the same conversation.
I also had some significant issues with the storyline. Things started out rocky for me when Austin is drinking whiskey outside on a stoop, throws his glass in the trash (what?), enters an adult video store, comes out and goes back to the stoop, and is then drinking again. Does he have a bar set up here on this stoop? Did he just leave the whiskey bottle and a set of glasses sitting outside a random building? This made no sense to me at all. In between, we get this weird sex scene where Austin goes into the video store, goes into the back room where two guys are in the act, sort of joins in, but then the guys come before he really gets into it, and so then he leaves. It was just so odd as it has nothing to do with anything that is happening in the story. Not to mention Austin has only been in Savannah for a few hours trying to find his dad, so the first thing he does is sit down on a stoop, have whiskey, and try for a quickie? There is no sex otherwise in this story, so maybe Collins was trying to get in a heated scene, but this was so weird and awkward I didn’t find it steamy at all honestly.
When Austin strikes out with the police, he then meets Derek in his grandfather’s store. The guys literally meet and then Austin dumps his entire story to this stranger, who then decides to jump in and help. Derek says he is going to tell him the story of the Vandershals and give Austin the history of the family in the town. But then instead, they end up going and breaking into the public library because inexplicably, they keep the police files in the library archive room. Not like files from 100 years ago; these are case files from the police from as recently as six years ago. Ok, I may be really wrong here, but I can’t imagine any way that police case files are in the library for public viewing. Not like court records, but files of the investigation with all the details still included. Ignoring that, I don’t understand why Derek says he is going to tell Austin the story of the Vandershals, but then instead they need to go into the library and break into the files to try to read about old cases. Not to mention that these guys seem to be only mildly worried about the cameras and the fact that they are breaking into a public building.
After that, things did improve for me in terms of the strange behavior and inconsistencies. There were still some issues, however. The whole story seems to take place in just over 24 hours and it is almost impossible to believe everything they accomplish. At one point, they meet a woman on a boat dock, catch a ride into a town, and somehow when they get there, the woman has already gotten there ahead of them even though she would have been walking and they were in a vehicle. Nothing huge, but added up, there just seemed like the story needed some tighter editing, especially for continuity issues. Also, you have to just go with the idea that the Savannah police department is appallingly corrupt and evil. It is kind of weird, as this is real town that is being portrayed this way, but you just have to go with it.
The case itself is interesting, as I mentioned. I felt engaged enough that I wanted to continue with the story despite my issues. While I’d say this is a mystery, Austin and Derek don’t do much investigating and putting pieces together as much as go from person to person being told things. It seems like everyone they meet knows something but doesn’t want to tell them, and then sends them to someone else, so there is a lot of running from place to place. Or actually walking. Somehow despite the fact that Savannah is a city of well over 100 thousand people and over 100 square miles, everyone seems to know a lot about everyone else and nothing is more than a few blocks apart. I found the resolution to the mystery interesting, though I do feel the story was too focused on one particular family member. We are told over and over how this whole family is so threatening, that they all live together, that everyone is scared of them, etc, but we only meet bad guy during the whole book. Even at the end, this one Vandershal is the only one who seems to face repercussions. I was unclear what happened to the rest of this evil family or what is stopping them from continuing their rule aside from [spoiler] their house being burned down [/spoiler].
I will also mention that this story isn’t really a romance. Derek and Austin feel more like friends than romantic interests. They share a mild kiss, but otherwise they are not only platonic, but there is really no indication of romantic feelings or relationship development at all. Which honestly was fine with me. It read like a buddy story (for some reason I was getting Hardy Boys vibes), and that was fine. But aside from the kiss, there is nothing to indicate any affection, any growing relationship, or a suggestion that these guys have a future of any kind other than as friends. We also don’t really learn much, if anything, about them as characters aside from Austin’s love of his dad and Derek’s for his grandfather, and bare bones biography. So I think I would have felt more engaged here if the characters were more developed, even without a relationship between them.
So as you can see, I had some significant problems with this one. I will say if you are a fan of Collins’ writing style, you may find fewer areas of concern here than I did. I just found the writing way too simple and with too many inconsistencies to really ever settle into the story. I think the basic plot works and the setting is well done, but even though I was interested in where the story was going, I couldn’t fully connect with Coveted.