Story Rating: 5 stars
Audio Rating: 5 stars
Narrator: Kale Williams
Length: 7 hours, 31 minutes
The Mermaid Murders is the first book in the Art of Murder series, and features a displaced art crimes FBI agent working a disappearance and murder investigation with a recently disgraced FBI field agent/profiler.
Special Agent Jason West is one of a handful of art crimes specialists that work for the FBI. He had been an artist and art major, and joined the FBI as an agent because his best childhood friend had been kidnapped and brutally murdered when they were in high school. Jason never considered himself a suspect in that disappearance because of his deep affection for his dead friend. His wealthy family never returned to their summer home in the sleepy New England town of Kingsfield that would become infamous for the “Huntsman” murders—a case solved by Senior Special Agent Sam Kennedy a decade ago. Sam has been called back to the town and unwillingly partnered with Jason to find a missing teen. Is she the next Huntsman victim? And, did Sam Kennedy arrest the wrong man all those years ago?
Sam is a mature agent, renowned for his profiling abilities and cool detachment in the face of conflict. That said, he won’t allow anyone to impugn his conduct or capabilities. In his most recent case, he publicly called out a governor for mucking up his investigation and implicating an innocent. It’s got the FBI upper brass upset, and Jason and Sam’s boss would like nothing more than to find that Sam’s cracking on the job. Jason’s been tasked with reporting back on Sam’s behavior—on a near-daily basis—but Jason can’t truly find anything “wrong” with Sam, except that he’s an arrogant prick who treats Jason like a wet-behind-the-ears newb. Jason’s irritated at Sam’s condescension, but attracted to him nonetheless. What makes Sam such an adept investigator makes him an equally proficient lover: his attention to detail.
This audiobook features narration by Kale Williams, who has the smooth, no-nonsense, FBI voice down cold. Jason’s character is the only POV, but Sam’s deeper timbre was completely distinct from Jason’s internal monologues, as are the Bostonian-accented Kingsfield PD members. The suspense elements were well-paced and rapidly built the story from the initial meeting of Jason and Sam to their final parting. There are a lot of complications in the story, with Jason enduring flashbacks to his final summer in Kingsfield, to his missing friend, to his recent injury in the line of duty. He doesn’t know if he can trust Sam, or anyone in Kingsfield’s police force. A high school rival is now on the force, and Jason’s under an unexpected microscope; his disbelief and frustration was clearly rendered through the audio.
I loved how Jason’s art expertise played a role in the investigation. Jason’s intuition, his grit, and his determination to solve the case helps cement the connection between Jason and Sam. Their intensity on and off the case makes the attraction between these men grow quickly, but it never overtakes the mystery. It was interesting to see Sam’s tender humanity with Jason in private, so different from his public, professional face. The climax was intense, and further complicated by the growing rapport between Sam and Jason. It is clear that Sam’s and Jason’s lives are on the line, and their feelings for one another edged the tension into the stratosphere as they struggled to solve the crime and save each other. I’ve enjoyed other Lanyon mysteries, but this one definitely tops my list of her books. It’s tight, and tense, and filled with misdirection. Sam and Jason are a great pair, with just the right amount of rough edges to rub each other and create fantastic sparks.