Narrator: Derrick McClain
Length: 7 hours, 58 minutes
It is Christmas in New York and Sebastian Snow is hoping for a good season for his antique shop and for things to settle down with his boyfriend Neil. The two have been dating for four years, but Neil is a closeted cop and his unwillingness to acknowledge Sebastian publicly is putting a lot of stress on their already fragile relationship.
When Sebastian’s shop is broken into and a heart found buried in the floorboards, Sebastian meets detective Calvin Winter. Sebastian is immediately attracted to him, but Calvin is kind of gruff and impatient, and, according to Neil, a total homophobe. But Sebastian can’t help but find himself drawn to the sexy ginger cop. Soon, one of Sebastian’s acquaintances is killed and a series of other crimes occur, all with a strange connection to author Edgar Allan Poe. Somehow Sebastian seems in the middle of it all and he can’t help but get involved in trying to figure out who is behind things, even as Calvin warns him off.
As it turns out, Calvin isn’t actually a homophobe; instead, he is in the closet. But he is definitely interested in Sebastian, much to Sebastian’s surprise. And Sebastian definitely likes Calvin as well. As things collapse with Neil, Sebastian wonders whether there is a chance for more than some sexy hookups with Calvin. However, now he is going from one closeted cop to another, and trying to make a relationship work seems daunting, even if Calvin were willing to give it a shot. But as Calvin and Sebastian dig further into the case, things become even more dangerous. Even as Sebastian narrows in on the killer, he may find his life on the line.
The Mystery of Nevermore is the first book in C.S. Poe’s Snow and Winter series. I have been curious about this one for a while, and when I saw the audio was out with Derrick McClain, a narrator I really enjoy, I figured it was a good time to give it try.
I enjoyed the tone of the story a lot. Sebastian is an interesting narrator and I liked seeing the mystery from his point of view as a regular guy. Although Calvin is investigating for the police, we are really following along with Sebastian as he puts the pieces together and figures out the bad guy. There is a nice “cozy mystery” feel to this one that I liked. However, while I found Sebastian pretty likable, at times he verges on the infamous “too stupid to live.” He takes huge risks, makes terrible decisions time and again, and puts himself in near constant danger because he just can’t stand to not get in the middle of it all. And while some of the time I got why he jumped in, other times it seemed ludicrous. For example, he decides he must confront the killer himself, even though he believes he is likely to die, because he says the killer will recognize Calvin and so he can’t involve the police. As if Calvin is the only cop in NYC, as if the cops are not able to run an undercover mission. So I’ll admit I found that somewhat off putting, and you have to be able to put up with a hero who doesn’t learn his lesson if this one is going to work for you.
The mystery itself is interesting with the Poe twist. I am not incredibly familiar with the author’s work, but I had no trouble following the storyline. I like how all the pieces come together and how things connect with Poe. This one isn’t really a high octane mystery; I knew who the bad guy was from the minute the person stepped on page. So it isn’t so much a who done it, as why, and seeing how it all comes together.
On the relationship end, I was intrigued by these guys together, but also had some issues. Calvin is a hunky, closeted cop who has a gruff side, but can also be sweet and tender with Calvin. But things between them were so hot and cold that I almost had whiplash. They have had one or two encounters, purely professional, and suddenly out of nowhere Calvin calls Sebastian “baby” and drops to his knees to blow him. There was no sense leading up to this that Calvin even likes Sebastian and suddenly “baby”? Things seem to be steaming up, then suddenly Calvin calls it off and acts like he never met Sebastian. Then they are back on and off, sometimes Calvin is sweet, others he is kind of a jerk to Sebastian. Even when they are happy together, the speed with which all this happens, and Calvin’s terms of endearment as if they have a real relationship, just felt very off putting and kept me from really connecting with them. I could believe in the attraction, but the feelings were just impossible for me to accept. I mean, they had known each other like three days when Sebastian’s dad says he can tell they are in love with each other.
Just for clarity here, the book opens with Neil and Sebastian still dating. Things fall apart while Sebastian and Calvin get closer. Depending on how technical you want to be, the two are still together when Sebastian hooks up with Calvin and later when he sleeps with him, but the relationship with Neil is clearly circling the drain before the two even meet. The “cheating” didn’t bother me at all, but I did find it odd that it doesn’t bother Calvin. He has no idea the two have broken up, yet he is treating Sebastian like his boyfriend (again despite the fact that they barely know each other at all). It didn’t seem like it fit his character at all to be so unconcerned with getting involved with a guy who had a serious, long term boyfriend. I also got a little tired of the constant comparisons to Neil. Every single thing that happens between Sebastian and Calvin is compared favorably to how things were with Neil and it got kind of repetitive for me.
I listened to this one in audio, and I will say that I really enjoyed Derrick McClain’s narration and it made the story for me. McClain captures both Calvin and Sebastian really nicely, and their voices are a nice fit with their personality. We get Calvin’s deeper, more gruff side, that feeling of him being more reserved. And with Sebastian, we get a really engaging narrator that carries the story well. I liked the little bits of self deprecation he gets when he realizes he is being stupid but does something anyway. The tone is a nice fit for the story and the side characters are done well, rounding things out. There are some heated moments, and McClain goes back and forth between the everyday, the sexier times, and the exciting elements really well.
So I am a little bit mixed on this one, but also kind of intrigued. Now that I am over the hurdle of the relationship set up, I am curious to see how things develop with Sebastian and Calvin, and what further trouble Calvin can get himself into. I really enjoyed McClain’s narration, so I am definitely considering checking out the second book.
P.S. This story has a strong plot connection to the Adrien English series by Josh Lanyon (and the story is dedicated to her). I haven’t read that series (I know!) so I can’t speak to how similar they are and whether it feels like homage or too close a copy. But be aware that this is a spin on that series, so it may be interesting to check out if you are a fan.