Simon Kincaide is a medium and clairvoyant living in Myrtle Beach. He owns a store on the boardwalk where he sells spiritual objects, leads ghost tours, and does private readings and seances. Three years after losing his job as a professor (and his boyfriend as well) due to a close minded parent, Simon is finally settled into his new life and is content. Yet a serial killer that seems to be targeting seasonal workers has Simon worried.
Detective Vic D’Amato is also a transplant to Myrtle Beach, having lost his last job when he witnessed some unexplained paranormal phenomena and telling people about it got him kicked off the force. When Vic and Simon meet in line for coffee one day, there is an instant attraction between them, along with some flirting. But when Vic gets a call that the killer has claimed another victim, he has has to shift focus to business without even getting Simon’s information. The killer is striking with more frequency and the cops have no idea what the connection is between the victims as the killer is widening his scope. Vic isn’t much of a believer in the paranormal, but there is a part of him that still wonders what he saw that day, and he decides to consult a psychic to see if perhaps that will help; he never expects to once again run into Simon.
Simon’s ability to talk to ghosts has given him information on the case, albeit bits and pieces that are hard to decipher. He has loose network of fellow psychics in town and he begins to consult them, looking for anyone who might have information on the killer or the victims. At the same time, Vic is continuing his police investigation, consulting with Simon on occasion for his insight. Vic knows bringing Simon into the case could mean trouble. He hasn’t been authorized to share information and after losing his job last time due to his paranormal experience, bringing in a medium is risky. Not to mention that things are heating up between Simon and Vic, both men finding a connection they never expected, as well as a source of comfort and strength in each other. As the killer ramps up his attacks, Simon finds himself in the crosshairs. Now Simon and Vic must figure out who is behind the murders before Simon ends up the next victim.
Oh, I really liked this one so much! Morgan Brice has only written two books under this name (she also writes under Gail Z. Martin), but count me as a fan because I am really loving her writing style. She does a great job combining mystery and paranormal in a way that gives her books an urban fantasy vibe that I really enjoy. I was just caught up in this one from the start and still can’t stop thinking about the book. It is exciting, romantic, sexy, and intense, just what I look for in a good romantic suspense.
What works particularly well here is the way Brice builds the conflict. In the big picture we have this serial killer who is striking fear among the locals of Myrtle Beach. He is dangerous and deadly and we get a great sense of horror and tension as he strikes again and again, always one step ahead of the police. The case is well developed and suspenseful and comes together really nicely in the end. But overlaid on top of that is the conflict Vic and Simon face about Simon’s involvement in the case. Vic lost his last job because no one believed his claims about what he saw, and so he knows he is on thin ice at work. He can’t share that he is getting information from a medium, and definitely not one he is sexually involved with. On top of that, Simon knows so much about the case through his own research, his sources, and his psychic abilities, and he is unwilling to stop digging into the case. So to an outsider who doesn’t believe in Simon’s abilities, his inside knowledge looks way suspicious. So there is this tension about the risks Simon is facing, along with the risks Vic is taking through his involvement with Simon. Not to mention the tension between the men as Vic comes to terms with his own belief in the paranormal. I loved the way these layers played together, giving the story even more tension, as well as letting us really get to understand our characters.
I really enjoyed Vic and Simon together. These are both guys who are fleeing their pasts (as well as past relationships) and are just finally getting settled. There is a sweetness to their interactions, a sense that both men can just breathe around each other that I really liked. Brice manages to make these guys sexy together, but also tender and comforting. One tiny quibble here is that both men had similar backstories of losing jobs, callous boyfriends, and relocating to Myrtle Beach. So that could have been changed up a bit. But I really loved these guys as a couple and Brice does a really nice job of building their relationship amidst the suspense portion of the story.
My final note is that Brice does a wonderful job with the setting here. I have never been to Myrtle Beach, but she just brings it to life. I could picture the atmosphere, the boardwalk, the stores, and the vibe of the town so well from her description. The atmosphere really enhances the story and it works so nicely.
Brice has indicated that this book will start a series, so I am super excited about that as I just loved this one. If you like great romantic suspense with a paranormal twist, definitely check out Badlands.