Following a colleague’s sudden heart attack, cop Owen Duke finds himself in charge of wrapping up the Mayfield murder case. It should be an open-and-shut case. The only caveat is that a hotshot attorney named James Scott has taken on the defendant’s case pro bono and he has a “gut feeling” Duke’s perpetrator is innocent. The two men are forced to play nice as they both seek to uncover the truth.
Duke discovers Scott is more than a media darling. Even before their first formal meeting, Scott has uncovered key information which, in hindsight, was conspicuously absent from the case files Duke received. Now, Duke is interested in working with Scott to fill in the gaps…and maybe indulge in the explosive attraction they feel for each other.
When attempts are made on both Scott’s and Duke’s lives, Duke finds himself embroiled in the midst of a coverup. But he doesn’t know how far up the justice system the rot has climbed. With no one he can trust, it’s up to him, Scott, and a rookie cop to uncover the truth before it’s too late.
I rather enjoyed this suspense story. The two leads were a great mix of traits. I found Duke appealing, with his stone cold exterior, but soft(ish) interior. Conversely, Scott exudes slick confidence, but still battles with some insecurities. Watching these two interact was a real treat. In fact, if it weren’t for the characters themselves pointing out how fast and hard they’re falling for each other, I might not have pegged this as an instalove situation. Duke and Scott spend a lot of time together on page and they seem to be constantly in one another’s mind. I think this focused attention makes their romance feel rather grounded. Some plot devices feel conveniently convenient—like the conclusion of Duke and Scott’s first real meeting. What happens throws Duke into protector-cop mode and he ends up spending the night at Scott’s place. While they don’t immediately jump into bed together, the promise of more oozes from their interactions.
Of course, the whole scaffolding that holds up this story is the Mayfield murder case. Scott’s client, Hector Young, is the chief suspect in the murder of Tana Mayfield. When Young’s cellmate ends up dead, it is generally assumed that he is the only one who could have committed that crime; thus, it is almost a foregone conclusion that Young also killed Mayfield. However, it’s easy for the reader to give the alleged criminal the benefit of the doubt. The book eschews any detailed critique of the American justice system, but Craig draws enough of a picture that the reader can feel the gross unfairness with which Young is treated. This is achieved both through Scott’s dogged determination to see Young set free, and as we see hard boiled Duke gradually begin to acknowledge that Scott may be right and the perpetrator is actually innocent. I thought Craig struck a good balance between probable guesses as to how deep the corruption went and actual evidence of that corruption. It isn’t until the final climactic scenes that we learn the full extent of the crime.
All in all, I think this is a great read for people who like crime stories or enemies to lovers. Although I wouldn’t say Duke and Scott strictly adhere to the enemies to lovers trope, it’s absolutely true that these two men’s life’s work (homicide cop and defense attorney) necessarily mean they are professional adversaries. This is also a good title for anyone who’s looking for a contemporary book that features a fast-tracked love story.