Story Rating: 5 stars
Audio Rating: 3.5 stars
Narrator: Michael Fell
Length: 9 hours
Audiobook Buy Links: Amazon/Audible | iBooks
Book Buy Links: Amazon | iBooks
Cloister White has three things: a dog, a past, and a crush. Or it would be a crush if Javi wasn’t such an asshole. A really, really good looking asshole who looks really, really good in his expensive suit. It was not love at first sight. It wasn’t love, it wasn’t a relationship, it wasn’t… anything. But when a young boy goes missing — the grandson of a fellow FBI agent — Cloister and Javi have to find a way to put their past animosity behind them and work together.
Ten-year-old Drew Hartley vanished into the night, somehow slipping out of the new age campground his family vacationed at over the summers. His older brother was supposed to be watching him but he had other things — girl things — on his mind and left his brother alone at their cabin. He’s also a suspect. Drew’s mother is already mourning one missing son and now has to deal with the fact that her other son might have had something to do with it. She can barely look at him, won’t touch him, and in her pain and anger ends her friendship with her father’s partner — Javi — for failing to find her missing son.
When Plenty’s police department was dissolved and replaced with a small FBI office, it left behind corruption, incompetence, and unsolved cases, one of them being the kidnapping of Birdie Upton. Things start to go from bad to worse when clues surface linking the two cases together, and things go to straight to hell when the body of a young woman is found inside a wall. Beneath the floor of the abandoned house are bags of clothes and other belongings, not just Birdie’s, signaling that Drew might be the victim of a serial kidnapper and his time — already so short — has just gotten shorter.
The mystery part of this story was wonderfully twisty. I honestly thought I knew who had done it early on, only to have clues thrown at me until I didn’t know which way to go. It’s also an honest mystery; no maguffin or deus-ex-machina. Just good writing, good plotting, and great pacing. This story would be well worth it if only for the mystery, but the best part of this book for me happens to be the love triangle between Javi, Cloister, and the dog Bourneville.
Bourneville is not a pet. Though she’s bonded to Cloister, she’s property of the sheriff’s department. She goes for walks and eats dog food, but she’s a working dog trained in search and rescue. As much as Cloister honestly loves her, he doesn’t treat her like I treat my own pets; he’s firm, clear, and attentive, always keeping her on a leash when she’s not off and running after a missing person or looking for a body. The author clearly loves dogs and knows dogs, and every scene Bourneville’s in is completely stolen by the German Shepherd.
Cloister has had a difficult childhood, though it’s shown in glimpses. His family was filled with strong, sometimes violent men who weren’t always as law-abiding as Cloister. When he was a child, his older brother vanished and his mother, needing something to blame, turned her anger and pain on Cloister. It left a would between them that never healed. Adding to that, his issues with a sometimes-violent father and a shadowed adolescence only hinted at, he’s left with insomnia, a martyr complex, and an attitude. Every child he manages to find is a life saved, a measure of guilt removed from his shoulders. Even if it’s not a happy ending, it’s closure for a family, closure he will never have.
On the other side, Javi’s childhood is almost referred to. He was raised Catholic but isn’t, anymore. He is determined to keep his past in the past and focuses upon the present. He’s only here at this small, local FBI office as a stepping stone to a bigger, brighter future. He looks down on Cloister for living in a trailer, for being common, for being an unambitious redneck. Javi, himself, has a fine apartment, a very good wardrobe, and a car he’d rather not get dog hair in. When he’s not insulting Cloister, he’s fantasizing about fucking him… and regretting, a little, maybe, one or two of the meaner insults.
Cloister and Javi are both isolated from other people, mostly by choice. Javi has a drive to push himself and people who don’t push as hard are simply not worth noticing. People who get in the way of the job aren’t worth keeping; relationships aren’t worth having if they take focus away from work. Cloister would rather not play office politics. He wants to save lives more than he wants a career and he happens to like living in his trailer. It’s there the two men meet and seem unable to get past. They want the same things, in essence, to put bad men behind bars and save people from getting hurt; they just come at it from different angles. For Javi, appearance matters. For Cloister, results are what counts.
Both men feel the heat between them, but neither of them are willing to make the first move until Javi does. It’s quick, it’s rough, and neither of them can let it go. Not that either of them want to. Javi’s a jerk and he knows it, but he can’t help but keep reaching for Cloister. Cloister is someone willing to accept what he’s willing to give without asking for more, well, more than a good fuck. They both lie to themselves so beautifully, Javi more than Cloister.
Not to say Javi doesn’t have his faults. He’s an asshole. He’s constantly insulting Cloister, constantly looking down at him, constantly judging him, but there’s a bright, hot emotion underneath, a defensiveness that fades away as he realizes Cloister isn’t going to push. Cloister’s lazy, and he puts less into the ‘relationship’ than Javi does. He lets Javi take the first step, and the second, but he’s a full and willing participant in all of it. Javi sums up their relationship in one, simple sentence:
“Apparently you could look at some bad ideas and just know they would be worth it.”
They both know the other is a bad idea, but they both want each other. Javi wants the steady acceptance and compassion Cloister can give him, and Cloister wants someone to see him for who he is: Not a hero rescuing lost children, but a lost man, himself, who needs someone to help guide him out of his past. Javi doesn’t like dogs, but he’s willing to accept Bonbon because he can’t get Cloister without her. “Shut up and take your clothes off” might not be as romantic as “I love you”, but for Javi, for Cloister, they mean the same thing.
As much as I liked the story, I’m sorry to say I didn’t gel with the audio book. Fell has an odd cadence to his narration. It’s staccato in parts with random emphasis, or a tight, forced drawl. It was, at times, very hard to tell one character’s voice from another. However, when it came to the emotional scenes — with Lara in tears over her missing son or a bereaved Upton learning his daughter’s fate — he managed to convey the sorrow and emotional pain very well.
More and more I’m becoming a fan of Moore’s work. I very much enjoyed this story and these characters.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.
I read this book sometime ago and quite enjoyed it. I hope that the author will write more with these characters. Thanks for the review, Elizabeth. You’re making me wish to re-read this!
I felt the same way after reading Kareni. My understanding is the author intends a follow up (which I think it needs for sure as the relationship feels unfinished here). I loved this one and can’t wait for more.
Book two of the Wolf Winter series is coming out in May. No word on a sequel to this book, yet. (And that’s really all I know about anything.)
Yeah I haven’t heard details either. And yep I have the Wolf winter sequel to review but haven’t started it yet bc there is some time before it comes out.