Sawyer works for the world-famous, true-crime author, E.M. Rutt, as a fact-finder. He visits various sites, interviews friends and family, and does whatever research is needed for Rutt to get the story. (The man is, after all, 60 years old and not up to the long trips.) Today’s story is about the disappearance of Jesse Carmichael in the small town of Bitter, Pennsylvania.
What Sawyer finds is something more amazing than a simple love affair gone bad — James was the long-time lover of the so-called warlock, Wilhelm Ravenrock, even as he cheated on him with a local and wealthy young man — but a chance at the story of a lifetime and the love of his life.
Sawyer is, to hear him tell it, a middle-aged man who, although he lives a quiet, uneventful life, still has what it takes. After all, not that long ago he was dating a young underwear model, and the sex, lots of sex, was good. But the ex cheated on him and now Sawyer is free to look at the handsome bartender at the local pub, Harry, who has everything Sawyer likes in a man. He’s handsome, big, muscular, and he seems like the sort of man who would take care of Sawyer in all the right ways.
Harry was born and raised in Bitters, though he spent some years in Pittsburgh after his father’s death, sowing his wild warlock oats by being a monster. He hurt people, killed some, and for five years he was as close to evil as a man could be. Eventually, though, Harry made a choice to come home and ask the powerful warlock Ravenrock to help him, to cast a spell or a hex on him that would make Harry good again. And he did, and it worked, and now Harry can be the person he wants to be.
Sawyer and Harry hit it off, hard and fast, and it’s unclear if there’s a bit of magic involved, or if it’s just two men finding each other at the right time. Sawyer likes to play hard to get, which leads to Harry asking if his attentions are unwanted; if they are, he’ll back off. Sawyer, though, tells him he’s interested, but he wants to make Harry work for it. Fortunately, Harry doesn’t mind putting in the effort as he’s pretty certain Sawyer will be worth it.
This book is written in first person past tense — almost like a diary — and that tends to be my least favorite style to read. Not only does it come close to the fourth wall, it also adds yet another layer of distance between me and the story because I’m now not reading a story, I’m being told a story by someone who is a very unreliable narrator. Sawyer is also a pompous prick with an ego the size of a mountain. To be honest, I didn’t like Sawyer very much.
The story itself could have been interesting if it hadn’t been for the fact that, start to finish, it was all telling and no showing. Moments that should or could have been tense or emotional were flat and hollow. The relationship between Sawyer and Harry was all physical, and even then Sawyer kept hinting at, wondering at, commenting on a hex or a spell, which led me to wonder if he had in fact been spelled into the relationship, or if this was just his way of avoiding responsibility for the relationship.
This book was a miss, for me. The writing isn’t bad, the pacing is good, and the idea of the warlocks was interesting. It just didn’t work for me on any level and I had a hard time connecting with Sawyer, which — as his is the only point of view in the story — made it an unrewarding read.