Jonah loves caramel flavored bugles almost as much as he likes watching the lightning during a thunderstorm. He can recall sitting with his grandmother and her talking with him during some spectacular storms in the past. Returning home from Afghanistan brought with it a bushel of guilt that Jonah carries around with him. It’s not that the families whose sons and husbands he lead into an ambush haven’t forgiven him, it’s more like he hasn’t forgiven himself. That’s really the reason why he took the job his Aunt Ellie got for him with the GBI. Being a criminal analyst for the Bureau is rewarding and, despite not carrying a gun, Jonah still feels like he’s somehow righting the many wrongs from his past. Unfortunately, the job brings along with it a boss, Trexler, who seems to have nothing more than contempt for Jonah. Of course, there’s also Avery, his intern, and he more than counter balances any antagonism from the boss.
Jonah is very wary of falling for anyone, of giving his heart away again. It didn’t work out so well before, but Avery is so bright and gorgeous that the temptation to take a chance and tell Avery how he really feels is getting stronger every day. This night, however, it’s just him and the storm until his neighbor, Marla, happens by. She is lovely inside and out and Jonah adores her. Unfortunately, the news she brings to him this night knocks him off his feet and sets him on a mission that will eventually turn dangerous not only for him, but for his small group of friends and even, Avery.
Ride the Lightning by Aimee Nicole Walker is a fast paced, intense mystery with a lovely romance at its heart. Jonah is a perfectly flawed character, one who seeks a second chance, but doesn’t feel he could ever deserve it. Avery is the antidote to his pain. The two of them together make a gorgeous couple who find the light they both seek in each other. Avery, too, has made mistakes. Together, these two men will find forgiveness in each other and learn that taking a chance, that riding the lightning, can be the best and most exciting way to live.
The side characters in this novel are just wonderful. First, we have Rocky and Felix, the two friends who do a fictional podcast exploring “sinister crimes of Savannah” with Jonah. Rocky, a PI, and Felix, a journalist, and their constant playful bickering provides some of the humor in this novel with Avery and his sass doing the rest. But I must admit that Marla is the standout for me. She is absolutely marvelous. I love this character. I wish I could meet her for real, for I know I would adore her as much in reality as I do from this work of fiction. When she tells Jonah about her diagnosis and extracts a promise from him that he will pursue finding out who killed her friend, Earl, she unknowingly unleashes a series of events that will lead to placing Jonah in real danger. Honestly every character we meet for any length of time in this novel is so well developed and delightful to meet that the cast, as an ensemble, has no real weakness
The main mystery element revolves around Earl and finding out who killed him. Earl was despised by his family and tossed aside when he came out, then as he began to explore the world of drag, he found someone who loved him just as he was. But that affair was short lived and then Earl was brutally murdered, left in a construction site, his body exposed in a humiliating way. The detectives who had the case back then barely pursued answers until out of the blue a man on death row confessed to killing Earl. But there was something very fishy about how the entire case was resolved and, once Jonah begins to look into it, he realizes that the man who confessed could not have possibly committed the crime. The entire thing is rotten and someone is covering it up. Now Jonah and his two friends, Rocky and Felix, are determined to discover the truth.
I must say, this novel surprised me. I really enjoyed it and appreciated the many twists and turns. Apparently is a spinoff of Walker’s Zero Hour series, hence the initial quandary I found myself in when a few minor characters are introduced and seem to have been around before. Despite not having read that series, I still followed this story quite well, but it does make me want to go back and pick up those other novels just to learn more about those people. Regardless of whether you are familiar with the previous stories, this is the beginning of a new series and one I can highly recommend.