Things are going pretty well for Teancum Leon and Jem Berger. Tean has finally broken things off with Ammon and gotten himself out of that horrible relationship. Jem has a job (albeit one that he hates). And Tean and Jem are repairing things between them and becoming friends (“best friends” according to Jem). When Tean’s friend and co-worker, Hannah, thinks someone is following her and turns to Tean and Jem for help, Jem even gets hired to look into it.
It sounds like a pretty straightforward situation, but it turns out to be anything but simple. Hannah is actually being watched — by the police. And of course, who is on the case, but Ammon. The police are watching Hannah because there is a missing person and they think Hannah is involved. And when that missing person case turns into a murder investigation, things are looking even more dire for Hannah. She is clearly keeping secrets, and those secrets may land her in jail for murder if Tean and Jem can’t figure out who is really behind the killing and why.
While the guys are investigating, things on the personal end get more complicated as well. With Ammon involved in the case, it is impossible for Tean to stay totally away from him. Jem’s jealousy rears its head, especially when it is clear that Ammon is making moves to get Tean back in his life (and that he wants nothing more than to get Tean away from Jem). Jem also is forced to reconnect with his former foster mother and what he learns stirs up a lot of emotions that he isn’t totally prepared to handle. Now, Tean and Jem must do all they can to find the killer — and stay out of danger themselves — while also trying to hold their friendship together.
The Same Place is the second book in Gregory Ashe’s excellent The Lion and the Lamb series. This book follows closely after the first and the relationship dynamics definitely set up in the first story, so you are going to want to read these in order. My absolute favorite part of this book/series is the dynamic between Tean and Jem. They are just such a fun, opposites attract pair who both push and challenge one another, but also so clearly care deeply for each other. I am always a huge sucker for banter and wit and there were several places in this story that had me laughing out loud. Tean is such a glass half empty kind of guy. He protects himself by imaging the worst and it is a trait that makes most people crazy. But Jem takes it all in stride. Even more, his acceptance gives Tean the space to maybe realize just a little that he is stepping off the cliff and to take a moment and breathe. This scene totally captures these guys: Tean’s lack of attention to himself by never eating, Jem’s poking at Tean to relax a bit, and the way that the two know each other so well.
“I’m a thirty-six-year-old man. I’m not adorable. And I’m not hungry.”
“Here’s the problem,” Jem said, “as I see it, anyway. If you don’t eat this Egg McMuffin, I’m going to eat it. And if I eat it, it’s just going to spike my cholesterol even higher. And then I’m going to have a heart attack. And you won’t be able to perform CPR because you’ll be so upset about your best friend having a heart attack.”
“Regular, normal-level friend.” Tean looked like he wanted to stop there, but the hook was already set. “And it probably won’t be a heart attack. It’ll probably be choking. Because you swallow those sandwiches whole like a duck, and it’ll get stuck in your throat, and I won’t even be able to give you an emergency tracheotomy because you’ll have aspirated your hash brown.”
“God, yes, that’s so bleak. And then?”
“And then you’ll be dead. And I’ll be publicly shamed for not having saved you. And I’ll run away with that off-brand Mexican circus that comes through every year.”
“And you’ll start boning the lion tamer.”
“And I’ll—no, I won’t. And I’ll get caught up in some sort of cartel drug-running mule operation and I’ll get my butt packed with heroin.”
“Interesting. Tell me why your mind went immediately to getting your butt—”
“And then I’ll probably mess it up somehow and the cartel will cut my face off and I’ll have to wear a big floppy hat and a veil.”
“Now bring it home.”
“And I’ll die alone, probably in the desert, and someone will find me a hundred years later and put me in a children’s museum or something like that. Still wearing the floppy hat and veil.”
“Wow. But honestly, not as dark as I was expecting—”
“And then the museum will burn down while several orphanages are visiting for a field trip. No fire exits. It’s an old building.”
“There it is.”
“So that’s my future,” Tean said. He slumped back in the seat, looking incredibly satisfied with himself. “Ending my days as a mummy who gets incinerated on top of a pile of orphans. I hope you’re happy.”
When Jem offered the Egg McMuffin again, Tean accepted it and took a huge bite.
Seriously, I just love them together. And here is one more, just because this one had me cracking up for far too long given the late hour. Poor Tean, sometimes he is so clueless.
He left Tean in the car, jogged south to the Sinclair, used the bathroom, and bought as many TastyKake snacks as he could carry at one time. When he got back to the car, Tean needed to pee, and Tean brought back a bag of unsalted, unseasoned sunflower seeds and a bottle of water.
“Good choice of snacks. They didn’t have any raisins or prunes?” Jem said. “Or fresh fruit? Or unsweetened shredded coconut?”
“Or, you know, like a box of instant corn mush?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Never mind. You’re hopeless.”
Ok, enough quotes, but I just wanted to highlight the dynamic between these guys because I think it is the highlight of the series. On the surface they may be bickering, but underneath, you can really see how much these men have grown to care for each other. They are so protective over each other in their own ways. Even Tean, as timid and rigid as he can often be, becomes a different person when Jem is in need. He will do anything, including push himself way outside of his comfort zone, to take care of Jem when needed. I will say, I really wanted a little more here from the relationship development on the romantic front. Yes, I know Gregory Ashe delights in tormenting us with the slow build. And this story really shows how solid a bond the men have built, including really opening up to one another at the end. But I wanted to see that the guys are at least building to a romantic relationship, and sometimes I felt like they are so solidly in the best friend zone, they aren’t making any progress moving onto more. Or maybe more accurately, that they THINK they are in the friend zone, since in reality they are basically platonic boyfriends, whether or not either wants to admit it.
We do really delve nicely into both Jem and Tean’s backgrounds here. I liked seeing that added depth to the characters and learning more about them. It not only helps to flesh out their characters (particularly Tean, whose backstory was less developed in the first book), but also gave each man a chance to really support the other as they dealt with personal issues. So even though I was itching for more on the relationship side, we do get some nice character development here.
The case is an interesting one, and Ashe is great at building mystery/suspense. I didn’t see the reveal coming and it definitely kept me engaged. But I will say that I needed a little more development of Tean’s relationship with Hannah to help make the stakes here feel higher. We know they are friends, but we don’t see much of their relationship, at least here in this book. So Tean’s willingness not just to look into the case, but to risk his life over and over, was sometimes hard to understand. There were plenty of places where it made sense to involve the police, but where Tean and Jem instead move forward on their own. I get it from Jem, but from Tean I needed to better understand why he would risk not just safety, but following the rules, for Hannah and we don’t really get enough sense of their relationship for me to understand the risks he takes.
One thing I love is reading about clever people and here we get two in Tean and Jem. On Tean’s end, he is a brilliant veterinarian and seemingly knows something about every plant and animal he comes across. For Jem, he is brilliant on his feet and can maneuvers a situation so well. The way his mind puts connections together and the way he can assess a situation and figure out the right move is just fascinating. So these two make such a great amateur detective team as they are both so clever and can put pieces together in such interesting ways.
I found this one another great installment in the series. The characters really shine here so much and it just puts a big bow on these books for me. I enjoyed the mystery and appreciated seeing the connection deepen between Jem and Tean. I am hoping we can see them move forward on their romantic relationship soon, but in the meantime, I am really loving them together.
Note: I do want to add a potential trigger warning here for the topic of police brutality. There is a scene where Tean is explaining away some of Ammon’s anger issues and bad behavior as being related to him being a cop and the emotional impact that has on him. We know that Tean has a big blind spot when it comes to Ammon, and that he often excuses Ammon’s actions as a result. So while Tean is justifying Ammon’s behavior here, it does come from a place of bias and I took it as such. However, he is speaking more broadly about the police and why they may act aggressively, etc, so be aware of that potential trigger.