Story Rating: 4.25 stars
Audio Rating: 4.5 stars
Narrator: Derrick McClain
Length: 7 hours, 15 minutes
Audiobook Buy Links: Audible | iBooks
Book Buy Links: Amazon | iBooks
It’s been about a month and a half since antique shop owner Sebastian Snow started dating cop Calvin Winter. Things are going well for the men, but Sebastian does worry about Calvin who seems to be working constantly and still is unable to really talk about the nightmares and others signs of stress from his former military career. But things get shaken up when a brick is thrown through Sebastian’s store window, along with a cryptic note. That brick is followed by more vandalism, more notes, and soon an explosion, fire, and dead bodies. And for some reason, it all seems to circle around Sebastian.
Seb knows that he shouldn’t get involved in trying to figure out what is going on — that should be left to Calvin and the police. But there is also no way Sebastian can ignore this mystery, and before he knows it, he is once again knee deep in the investigation. Calvin makes it clear that he wants Sebastian safe and out of the case, especially when dead bodies are turning up. But Sebastian’s curiosity is peaked, and with it being clear that the killer intends Seb to get involved in solving the crime, there is no way he can stay away. But the more Sebastian digs into the case, the more dangerous things get. Now he may find that the closer he gets to figuring out who is behind the deaths, the more likely it is that the killer’s eyes will turn to Calvin.
The Mystery of the Curiosities is the second book in C.S. Poe’s Snow and Winter series. Like the first, it features amateur detective Sebastian Snow as he gets himself involved in a murder investigation with his now boyfriend Calvin trying desperately to keep him out of trouble. I really enjoyed the mystery built into this story and the way the killer intentionally involves Sebastian. There are little breadcrumbs thrown, drawing Sebastian in deeper despite the fact that he knows he should be definitely staying out of it. It becomes clear early on that the killer is definitely egging Sebastian on, encouraging him to get involved in the case. Each step Sebastian takes, the killer lures him a bit further in. I found it nicely twisty and really interesting. I didn’t guess the killer, but it also all made sense to me when the reveal came at the end. Like the first story, the mystery takes advantage of Sebastian’s incredible knowledge of history of both the well known and the mundane. In this case, the mystery pulls in threads of P.T. Barnum and his museum of curiosities. I love how Sebastian knows all these little details about many of these objects and stories that allow him to figure out each of the little mysteries along the way.
This story also focuses on the relationship growing between Calvin and Sebastian. Even though they haven’t been together long, there is a clear connection between the men. I kind of love how Sebastian’s persistence and determination in the rest of his life makes its way into his relationship with Calvin. It is clear Calvin is hurting due to his PTSD. He doesn’t want to talk to Sebastian about it, or anyone else for that matter. And Sebastian is determined to help Calvin and refuses to give up on him, even when Calvin really doesn’t want to deal with it. There is a lovely moment toward the end of the story when Calvin notes how determined Sebastian is to love him, and how much that means to Calvin who never thought he would have that in his life. Poe does a nice job here tying the Sebastian who refuses to sit on the sidelines when there is a mystery to solve, with the man who also refuses to sit back when he knows Calvin needs help, even if Calvin thinks he doesn’t want it.
If you read my review of the first book, The Mystery of Nevermore, you know I had some difficulty with some of Sebastian’s decisions. He was constantly wading into trouble and using terrible judgement, jumping into an investigation and risking his safety because he was just too curious to stay out of things. And yes, that does still happen here. Sebastian time and again makes ill advised choices and can’t seem to stay out of the case regardless of the danger or how many times Calvin tells him to stay out of his investigation. That said, it is much better here in this second book. I am not sure if it is toned down, or I am just more used to Sebastian, but I wasn’t bothered nearly as much. I think part of it is that Sebastian does take some baby steps. Now he calls Calvin juuuuust before the crisis hits, instead of not at all. He recognizes he is making a bad choice even as he makes it, but he does make more of an effort to involve the police at appropriate times. That said, I did find myself frustrated that Calvin is clearly dealing with a lots of stress and seeing his boyfriend almost die over and over is not helping. Not to mention that Sebastian’s actions end up impacting Calvin and his job. I felt a little frustrated that despite loving Calvin and worrying about him, Sebastian didn’t seem to give much thought to how all this is affecting him. That said, Sebastian is the central character here and his amateur sleuthing is central to the story. So you pretty much just have to roll with him for all this to work.
Once again I listened to this story in audio and I think narrator Derrick McClain does a great job with the story. Both Calvin and Sebastian’s voices fit their characters so well. Sebastian in particular has that right mix of insecurity, determination, and a little bit of self deprecation. The intimate scenes are super sexy (check out the exclusive NSFW excerpt McClain shared when he stopped by the blog), and the banter and dialog between the men is spot on. There are a number of side characters that are also well done, and the tone and pacing of the audio fits nicely with the story. This book really rides on Sebastian’s shoulders and I think the way McClain brings him to life works really well here. I would definitely recommend this book in either format.
So I really am finding myself engaged with this series and definitely enjoyed this second installment a little more than the first. At this point I am really excited about where things are going between Calvin and Sebastian in their relationship, so I am looking forward to future stories about the couple, as well as to see what kind of trouble Sebastian finds himself in as the next mystery comes his way.
A review copy of this book was provided by DSP Publications.