Shaw and North have finally admitted their feelings for one another after so many years, and they have a new client who could take Borealis into the big leagues. Things should be great for the men, yet the Slasher case is still looming. When they get a call that Shaw’s ex boyfriend, Jadon Reck, was attacked and almost killed, Shaw and North realize that things are becoming even more dangerous with the case. It is pretty clear that Jadon was investigating the Slasher as well, and someone tried to silence him permanently.
North would like Shaw to just let the case go. They are alive — barely — and the more they dig, the more likely they are to get caught in the crossfire. But Shaw can’t let it go. The Slasher case has been haunting him for eight years. He is still filled with panic and anxiety. He can barely even be intimate with North without fear. And so Shaw is determined to find out the truth behind the killer, regardless of what it takes.
But with dirty cops all over the case, Shaw and North have no idea who to trust. Each step that takes them closer to finding the killer is putting them in even more danger. The men have waited years to finally be together, but the killer may take away any chance they have at a happily ever after.
Declination is the conclusion to Gregory Ashe’s wonderful Borealis Investigations trilogy. The mystery of the Slasher killer carries over all three books, so you definitely want to start at the beginning here. I can assure you it is well worth the ride.
One of the things Ashe has done really well with this series is parse out the mystery over the course of the books, and leave little breadcrumbs that tie together at the end. The first two books each had discrete mysteries, with the Slasher case in the background. But there are elements that happen in those books that connect back here to this final story really nicely. I also am impressed with how twisty and clever the ultimate mystery is. There are so many twists and turns that each time I thought I knew where things were going, the story expanded. I found the story a little bit slow to start here. After the excitement of Triangulation, both in terms of the suspense plot and the relationship development, we take a step back here and it takes a little while to get going again. But once we get into the mystery, the story becomes suspenseful and twisty and really exciting. I am impressed at how Ashe pulled it all together across the books and tied things up so nicely.
On the romantic end, things are a little bittersweet at the start. Oh, I swooned when Shaw and North got together at the end of the last book, and I wanted all that love and happiness to continue for them right away. But Shaw is still dealing with a lot of issues with regard to his past. He loves North, and North loves him back, but Shaw still has fears around sex and intimacy that are putting up walls between them. There are some really lovely, tender moments here as North tries to reach out to Shaw (and some intense ones as North’s fears and emotions get the better of him). I appreciated the realism Ashe shows here; Shaw basically has PTSD from the attack, especially with the Matty situation on top of that. As much as he loves North, that alone is not enough to get him over the trauma and I found it very realistic to see how he struggled. As with the mystery plot, things come together on the romantic end as well. I just adore these two men together; there is such a clear connection, an intimacy born of being friends and in love with one another for so many years. I love their banter and the way they give the other a hard time in one moment, but are then so swept away by one another the next. They are just a great couple and they are a perfect pair to carry the series.
I did have a small issue in that things felt somewhat unresolved with regard to North and his Uncle Ronnie. Ronnie makes an appearance in all three books and clearly has some sort of hold over North, but we don’t know what. Here, Ronnie makes a key appearance at the end of the book, and I still feel like I don’t understand his character or his role in the story. While this book is the end of the trilogy, we are left with a hanging thread with regard to Ronnie that feels like it needs another book at some point for these guys, which I am hoping is coming. So I wanted to be with North and Shaw there at the end, not that last moment focused on a side character and a potentially new plot thread.
That said, I really enjoyed this book and overall completely loved the series. Gregory Ashe was a new-to-me author when I picked up this series, but he has definitely made me a fan. I loved the mystery here and loved the romance between Shaw and North even more. I can highly recommend this series.