Today Jay and Michelle are doing a Buddy Review of A Friend in the Fire, the second book in Gregory Ashe and C.S. Poe’s Auden & O’Callaghan Mystery series. The book continues the story for Rufus and Sam, but features a new mystery. Check out our overview of the book, and then Jay and Michelle’s individual reviews below.
It has been three months since Sam Auden left New York and he hasn’t spoken to Rufus O’Callaghan in that time. But when Sam gets a call that Rufus needs him, he is quick to return to NYC. It turns out that Rufus got a letter offering information about his mother, a prostitute who was murdered 17 years ago. Now, not only is someone after Rufus, but the killer looks to be back at work.
As more prostitutes turn up dead, Rufus and Sam are determined to figure out who is behind it all. But a 17-year-old cold case is not easy to solve, even with Rufus’ street smarts and Sam’s brawn and savvy. The more they dig, the closer they get to figuring out who is behind the murders. But their investigation is also putting them in the killer’s sights, and if they are not careful, they could be the next victims.
Rating: 4 stars
A Friend in the Fire picks up three months after the end of A Friend in the Dark, and reunites us with Rufus and Sam. While the story features a new case, it continues the relationship between the men. It also includes a variety of side characters from the first book, not all of whom I found well explained, so I think having read the first book will make this one more enjoyable.
The real focus of this story is on the mystery, and we spend most of the book following along as Rufus and Sam investigate. Rufus is a man of the streets and he knows the ins and outs of the city, so he continues to serve as Sam’s (and our) guide through the less glamorous side of NYC as they track down leads. I found the mystery to be engaging, though I will say it is a lot of watching the guys go from place to place around New York. I think it worked for me because I enjoy these characters. Rufus and Sam aren’t typical romance heroes and I like the grittiness of the story as seen through their eyes. However, I think some readers may find this one falls a little too hard on Sam and Rufus traveling from one place to another without enough time to really settle fully into the larger story. The authors do a nice job keeping a lot of pieces going and and it mostly comes together well. I found the bad guy needed a little more development, as I don’t think we get enough of a sense of the character. I don’t want to say more here for fear of spoiling, but I just felt like the ending didn’t feel as fully fleshed out as I wanted.
The heart of the story for me is Sam and Rufus. I have a soft spot for them and it really rounded out the mystery side of things. I just like their dynamic, and both of these authors are so good at writing seemingly mismatched couples and making them work for me. Here we delve more into Rufus’ backstory, which I appreciated, as we get so little information on either man in book one. Given Rufus’ primary motivation is learning more about his mom, I wish that this part of the story got developed a little more. I also feel like I am still waiting for more on Sam. I am guessing that will come in the next story, but he still feels like there is so much more hidden and, two books in, I wanted a little more about him at least. Even something small, like how he makes the money he has to support himself. Where is that all coming from? All we know is that he is drifter, but there is no mention at all of what he does other than travel around. The men make some definite progress on their relationship here, which I really liked. As I said, the story falls mostly on the mystery side, so I do feel like the jump to the “I love yous” felt fast given how little time we spend with the guys developing their romantic connection. But I also really like the two of them, so I am all in.
Overall, I enjoyed the mystery, and I really like Rufus and Sam together. I do feel like the balance needed to be shifted a little to focus more on the men and less on the investigation to really develop the relationship side of things. However, I am invested in both of these guys and really enjoy their dynamic, so I am looking forward to more.
Rating: 3.5 stars
Rufus and Sam’s story continues three months after the end of A Friend in the Dark. The men haven’t spoken to each other and Rufus wishes Sam would just come back, but he knows that he has to be the one to make the first move. When Rufus does make that move, Sam crosses several states to get to him.
Rufus has been struggling with everything and the trauma of his past overshadows his present. Rufus hasn’t been eating or taking care of himself and, while he still works as an informant, it’s just enough to barely make rent each month. He regrets what happened to make Sam leave and although Rufus is a survivor, he’s in rough shape.
I like Rufus and Sam together. There is something about the two of them when they are alone and the way they connect to each other that drives this book. This story is mostly Rufus and Sam working on a murder case that has ties to Rufus’ mother’s death 17 years prior. The men are becoming closer and there is a relationship being built between the two of them, but the relationship is a firm second to life going on around them and I would not consider this a romance, if that is what you are looking for.
The narrative winds through the men trying to solve several murder cases, both past and present. At first, I was enjoying them and the story, but I also felt at the same time that not much was actually happening. The issues that I did have with the book ultimately were too great to move past and, by the end, I wished that the men had a more solid story. The financial issues noted in the first book remain and I still can’t see how Rufus even makes rent each month working for one cop as an informant. We also know almost nothing about Sam and, after two books, he still says he’s “not ready” to talk. He does, however, have a never-ending wad of cash he keeps pulling out all over NYC and we hear nothing about where his money comes from. Sam also gets medical attention with no reference to how that is being paid for. Probably the largest issue for me was the wrap up and reveal at the end. Between how the men easily come across some clues, the bad guy that was too underdeveloped to become credible, and then the chain of events leading to the evidence they found and the evidence itself, it was all too much of a reach for me and that’s about all I can say without giving details away.
It was interesting in that I didn’t feel like I was struggling much with this book until the ending when it just didn’t come together for me and I looked back on the path to get there. Sam and Rufus interacting together was the highlight for me, but the plot didn’t elevate them.