Story Rating: 4.75 stars
Audio Rating: 5 stars

Narrator: Joel Leslie
Length: 10 hours, 35 minutes

Audiobook Buy Links: Amazon/Audible | iBooks
Book Buy Links: Amazon | iBooks

For the uninitiated to the In Darkness series, Lane is a former undercover police detective who was blinded and wounded on the job before the onset of book one, Hidden in Darkness. Felix is hired for Lane’s in-home care. Lane hates being dependent on anyone, particularly the ever-cheerful, very short, wallet-stealing Snarky McBossypants. After Lane recovers, the criminal capers begin and Felix and Lane’s relationship evolves. In Deception in Darkness, the third installment of the series, Lane and Felix are growing a teensy bit bored with their “old married couple” life. Lane yearns for excitement, while Felix lusts for money (and maybe a chance to pick someone’s pocket). They’re offered an opportunity to make $35,000 by doing something slightly illegal – all the better – so they’re on board. Monica Berell wants her husband Chase’s watch stolen out of police custody. Chase and his brother, Frank, each have a watch with an inscription that, when put together, provides the numbers to unlock their late father’s safe, which presumably houses his fortune. And thus, the fun begins with Felix getting trapped in the police evidence room and progresses to house fires, strip clubs, car chases, and shootouts.

Arguing about cucumbers while being kidnapped at gunpoint … who else could this be but Felix and Lane? They are wonderful, as always, in Deception in Darkness, and divine when brought to life by narrator Joel Leslie. The story’s part mystery and their misadventures while pursuing the truth, and part crazy, slice-of-life vignettes: Felix driving into a pond, Felix accidentally dancing at a strip club, Felix letting Lane walk into walls. Are you seeing a theme emerge? Some entire chapters are devoted to antics irrelevant to the plot. For as many times as Felix screws something up, Lane never gets aggravated or annoyed. In fact, Lane appears to find it endearing. I know I do!

Felix and Lane are polar opposites, but they have one thing in common – how much they love and adore each other. The book is low on overt romance — Felix’s idea of seduction is making Lane pole dance with a broom and do push-ups while wearing a red thong – and sex is usually filled with laughter rather than raw passion, but their love is so evident in their snark and banter. I would call them warm and loving, which is a wonderful and realistic thing.

The plot is absorbing, the characters are interesting, the editing is spot on, and the pacing is perfect with tense, perilous scenarios interspersed with absolutely ridiculous situations and the occasional earnest scene, making it never, ever boring. This audiobook is laugh-out-loud funny all the way through.

While pretending to be a stripper, Felix is confronted by the boss about his tiny leather shorts costume:

Frank looks me over, and boy, does he look disappointed.

“Your underwear is hanging out of it. Why is your phone tucked in there? Do you know what you’re doing? Why do you even have underwear on?”

He sighs as he rubs his head.

I look down. “It’s to hide my pubic hair that’s crawling out the sides,” I assure him.

His expression is a cross between revulsion and confusion.”

The secondary characters are delightful and include Lane’s father, Tom, the master of deadpan; Antonio, the stripper; and Frank the ogre, as Felix calls him. And then there’s Cal, one of the stars of this book. He is a drunk and former friend of Lane’s who shows up on their doorstep and takes up residence on their couch indeterminately. At first, I moaned that Cal’s arrival would change the dynamic between Felix and Lane, but it soon became apparent that Cal excels in the sidekick role (along with Copper, the dog) and adds to the insanity that is the Felix and Lane brand. Best of all, Winters has set up Cal for his own story, which she says she might do sometime in the future. There are several threads left hanging that warrant exploration.

The majority of audiobooks I listen to are of books I have read and love and want to revisit. This creates the ideal state for determining if the audio version enhances or detracts from the written book. If you’re familiar with Joel Leslie, you can already guess that he elevates the book. I’ve listened to innumerable recordings of his and he never disappoints. He is a marvel at romantic comedy, so Deception in Darkness is right in his wheelhouse. The voices of Felix and Lane are executed flawlessly; they capture the tone of the characters exactly as they come across in print. I am floored by how different the two MCs sound and would question if they came from the same narrator if I didn’t know better. Leslie really shines in conveying emotion: joy, concern, amusement, discomposure, goofiness, exasperation (which happens a lot to Lane), and indignation (on Felix’s part, particularly when called short). Felix’s quiet moments are few and far between — sometimes during sex or when his feelings come to the surface – and Leslie adjusts appropriately by speaking softly and sedately to portray Felix’s oft-hidden sensitive side.

“I love you,” I say.

He squeezes me tightly in his arms. “I love you too, Felix. … I’d do anything for you.”

“Anything?” I ask.

He chuckles again, and it makes me grin. “Yes. I’d tear this world apart for you.”

And I know he would. He’d destroy it all for me, and that makes me so unbelievably happy because the promise of his words makes my eyes water just a tiny bit.

The eBook is wonderful, but if you have the option, go for the audio. And if you’ve already read the book, give the audiobook a try, too. It’s a whole new experience. There aren’t many narrators I’d say this about: Joel Leslie is one who makes every book more special. Winters and Leslie are a winning combination.

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