Ex-mob enforcer Nicholas Pierce knew death would be hard, but the reality has been more difficult than he imagined. Months after faking his death and escaping mob life, Pierce is attempting to settle down into domesticity. His lover Miles is attending the police academy and, under an assumed name, Pierce is trying to earn his PI license. But trouble has a way of following Pierce and when his involvement in a human trafficking case brings him to the attention of the local police, Pierce knows his cover won’t last long.
Miles is trying to juggle the challenges of his new life. He loves Pierce, but the man seems distant, somehow less connected than he once was. Added to this, Miles has reunited with his brother and sister and that creates further tension between he and Pierce. For Miles, loving Pierce is a no brainer. But Pierce knows Miles is going places and being tied down to a worn out mobster might not be good for his career or his health. And Pierce would rather leave than risk hurting the only man he cares about.
Vice Enforcer is the direct sequel to Vice City and you really need to read the first book in the series to fully understand what’s happening here. Vice Enforcer picks up months after Pierce faked his death and fled with Miles. Oddly, they didn’t go very far, just to a nearby city. If I were trying to escape the mob, I’d probably think about going a bit further, but we’ll leave that for now. Miles is the top of his class at the police academy and seems to have a bright career in front of him. But Pierce is definitely struggling to adjust to the slower paced life of a PI trainee and part time terrible gardener. And that struggle is really at the heart of this book. The author does an excellent job of showing the chasm that has sprung up between Miles and Pierce, despite their love for one another. Pierce has lost his position of power, both in his profession and in their relationship, and he’s not exactly known for his flexibility. Pierce is as surly, brusque, and rude as ever, but now he seems adrift and as a reader it’s easy to sympathize with him.
Some aspects of Vice Enforcer seem slightly contrived and the plot is definitely plays out with a bit too much obviousness. But the pacing is strong and there is a consistent sense of tension between the characters and the challenges they face. And Vice Enforcer does a better job of defining itself when compared to its predecessor. There is less ambiguity and a better sense what kind of genre it wants to be. It’s not a perfect fix, but there is definite improvement. One complaint I have is how the age difference between Miles and Pierce is portrayed. Miles is 21 and Pierce is in his late 30s. Now I appreciate there is well over a decade that separates them, but Pierce is often described as borderline decrepit. There is no doubt Pierce had lived a hard life and that kind of darkness is bound to attach itself to a man, but there is a limit to that and if often felt as though the author wanted to pound the idea of their age difference into readers by any means necessary.
Vice Enforcer is a strong sequel to Vice City and in many ways it’s stronger than the first in the series. Miles and Pierce are fully dimensional and Pierce’s struggle to adjust to domestic life is especially well described. There are still some problems with plot contrivances and what I feel is an excessive focus on the age differences between our protagonists, but on the whole this was quite an enjoyable read.
A review copy of this book was provided by DSP Publications.