Elien Martel survived the worst violence when it came to his door. But Elien can’t move on and doesn’t feel like much of a survivor. He gets through each day as best as he can and, while he has his moments of lashing out, his older boyfriend, psychiatrist Richard, is there to listen or to provide medication.
Elien still goes to his support group; he feels he’s obligated to attend, but the members of the group are dying in mysterious and violent ways. A new group member, Mason, who is a law officer, does not hide his dislike for Elien and, days later, Mason tries to kill Elien in public. This leads Elien to Dag, who is not only Mason’s best friend, but his deputy partner as well, and Dag is determined to find out what is going on. There is violence around them and a sinister creature that likes to feed off of trauma, but Elien and Dag have no idea what kind of force they are dealing with and find themselves on a course to stop it together. It’s seems there are no answers for Elien and Dag, but as they face insurmountable odds, they might find a future together, if they can survive.
This latest book from Gregory Ashe offers what the author calls a paranormal horror mystery. While the reference to paranormal mystery had my attention, I don’t read a lot of horror, but a new book by this author had me deciding to step into the horror genre. While this book did have paranormal and it did have a mystery, I didn’t feel this really hit the notes of horror.
Elien suffered a tragedy and the details are given throughout the story at a good pace. It’s been about a year since his life was changed and he is now living with Richard, a wealthy doctor. Richard provides Elien with what he thinks is stability, but Elien is fairly numb. Elien has PTSD, as well as an eating disorder and body dysmorphia, and he struggles daily. He meets Dag through a bizarre set of circumstances and is drawn to him, but Elien has a lot to work through.
There is a relationship storyline here for Dag and Elien, but it is not the primary focus. The main focus is Elien sorting through his trauma and seeing similarities to the violence that is going on around him. The book takes place in Louisiana and there is a little bit of folklore and research the men do on paranormal creatures to try and figure out what is going on, but it wasn’t overly dark or creepy for me at all. There are scenes where the men are running for their lives and the intensity that should have come off the page just didn’t for me.
Elien and Dag are interesting characters and there is comic relief from Dag’s parents, who are over-the-top interested in their grown son’s sex life and it was entertaining until it wasn’t anymore. I would also have liked more structure to the timeline here. We are told Elien’s trauma happened a year prior, which is about the same time we are told he has been with Richard. At one point, Dag questions how Elien and Richard met and Elien doesn’t explain it clearly and the structure and history for their relationship was too loose for me. The mystery aspect was also too loose for me and the climactic reveal scene was way too obvious from the earlier parts of the book. I then had too many questions and hesitations about the way the wrap up was handled for both the mystery and Elien’s issues.
I have enjoyed works by Gregory Ashe time and again, but this one didn’t all work for me. The feel of the story gave me vibes from the movie Fallen, as well as The Outsider, and if that style appeals to you, this book is now available to coincide with the Halloween season.