When a young woman disappears after abandoning her car in a storm, Cloister Witte and his K-9 partner, Bourneville, are called in to help find her. When Cloister almost ends up as another victim, it is clear that the case may involve more than just a lost woman. Although things have been tense lately in Cloister’s casual relationship with FBI Agent Javi Merlo, Javi can’t help but get involved when Cloister is injured. Together the two of them begin to dig deeper into the case, trying to learn more about Janet and what happened to her. She clearly has some secrets in her past, secrets that someone is determined not to let get uncovered.
As they work the case, Javi and Cloister are drawn back together again. Javi is trying his best to keep some distance, but there are feelings between them he can’t fully ignore. Both Javi and Cloister have complicated pasts that make a relationship between them difficult. And Javi’s past is leading to troubles at work as well. But despite that, there is clearly a connection between the men, even if neither is fully ready to embrace it. Now, as they work together to solve the mystery involving Janet’s attack, the men will put their lives on the line and hope to find the attempted killer before it’s too late.
Skin and Bone is the second book in T.A. Moore’s Digging Up Bones series, and reconnects us with Javi, Cloister, and of course, Bourneville. The relationship between Javi and Cloister started in book one and continues to be a slow burn here. These guys are sleeping together and there are some clear feelings, but this is nowhere near an HEA at this point, even by the end of the book. Javi is determined not to get into a relationship with anyone one, and Cloister doesn’t have enough of a sense of his own self worth to really push for one. Yet it is obvious as a reader that these men care for each other. In Javi’s case, he cares despite himself, but there is a fondness and a desire to protect Cloister that makes it clear he isn’t as removed as he may try to pretend. I think Moore does a really nice job here developing both these characters. They are layered and interesting and the way they interact and behave is very much in keeping with who they are. I’ll admit that after two books, however, I am kind of impatient to see more for these men. I read this genre to a large degree for the romance itself and I feel like we are getting breadcrumbs here when I want a whole cake. While I can see the feelings down deep, I really would like to see the relationship move forward between these guys sooner than later.
The main focus of this story is on the investigation into Janet’s attack and learning more about her past. Moore does a great job here keeping the suspense portion of the book twisty and exciting. While I figured out a key element right before it’s revealed on page, I appreciated that this part is just a tip of the larger puzzle and the rest of the story kept me guessing. There are lots of twists and some really exciting moments and Moore is great with putting complicated mysteries together in ways that still are easy to follow. There were some times when I felt the momentum slowed, especially early on before the case really gets rolling. But mostly I found the investigative side to be really entertaining.
I will say, my favorite part of this series is the dynamic between Cloister and his dog, Bourneville. I am just fascinated by the dog/handler dynamic and the most interesting aspects of the case are watching the two work together. I would always vote for about 100% more Bourneville, and I will say that I wish we had a little more of her in the investigation. Compared to the previous book, it seems like they are doing more research and less action on the ground, so it didn’t feel like we saw her working as much. But I have to say, the details of how the two work together are really a stand out for me.
My last issue is that we still have a lot of unanswered questions about Javi’s past. We are teased once again in the book blurb, but still get no real explanation of what happened. Given this is a crucial element of both Javi’s personal and work background, I’d like more than hints at this point two books in, again because it’s mentioned in the blurb with no real information given.
So I really enjoyed Skin and Bone and found the mystery really interesting and the investigation kept me quite entertained. I think the pacing at which Moore is parsing out some key plot points (the guys’ relationship, Javi’s past) is happening a little too slowly for me. I’d like to see that part take off with the same intensity that the books bring to the mystery and investigative side of things. But overall, this was a nice installment and I am looking forward to more.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.