Rating: 4.5 stars
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When Matt attempts to skirt the rules to find his almost-boyfriend’s not-quite ex-husband, he lands in hot water and finds he’s bounced back to surveillance at Quest Investigations. And on a lengthened probation, since as a human interacting with supernatural beings, Matt’s only been able to keep his memories intact by the grace of the council. Which is how he ends up being put on the case when a human—who shouldn’t be able to get past Quest’s wards—shows up complaining of a spectral dog haunting Burgerville restaurants. Matt thinks it’s nonsense until he actually finds one of the Cwn Annwn, and a puppy to boot.
Even worse, when Matt (and his friends/coworkers Eleri and Jordan) attempt to return the young hellhound back to the kennel where it should live, they discover the pack gone and the kennel master dead. There hasn’t been an unsanctioned murder in the fairy realm in a ridiculously long time. What’s worse is Herne himself seems to be missing. The plot thickens further when Herne’s horn is also not where it should be.
Matt may be human, but he’s one of the only ones who can go on the hunt. Herne is either the culprit or another victim. The rest of the Quest Investigations team has personal baggage holding them back. Lachlan, Matt’s almost-boyfriend, wants nothing more than to spend time with Matt, but since he’s still married, it can’t go further than that. But Lachlan isn’t willing to let the human he cares about walk into literal hell without sufficient backup. Things go from bad to worse before it gets better. But with one mystery solved, another is still looming.
This is the second book in the Quest Investigations series and they do need to be read in order. In Five Dead Herrings, readers are introduced to Matt (or Hugh Mann as the supes like to call him) and what has brought him into the Quest Investigations fold. We also meet Lachlan, Matt’s love interest, and the circumstances of their not quite relationship. Plus, a whole host of other characters who make Matt’s life very interesting.
E.J. Russell moves the metaplot forward nicely with this book. There’s a new mystery to solve with appropriate twists and turns, but there are also bits and pieces from the first book that we see tied up or progressing. There’s also some heavy backstory regarding Zeke and his past, which I think was explained nicely. So it’s not necessary to have read Demon on the Down-Low from the author’s Supernatural Selection series, but if you have, it adds a little something extra. The important thing to remember with this series is that romance is absolutely the subplot here, the B storyline if you will, and the majority focuses on the mystery du jour, as well as the overarching threads that run through the series.
I continue to wholeheartedly enjoy Matt. He’s not perfect by any means, but he’s got a good heart and a good sense of humor. I love seeing the supernatural world through his human eyes, and I think the author uses this tool to great effect without it ever being in info-dump territory. On top of that, he’s truly an endearing character, whose thought processes and insight often give the right clue at the right time without feeling forced. He’s so very human, in a very real way, and that’s only highlighted by the fact that he’s surrounded by supes. He’s truly relatable and is a wonderful narrator.
The larger mystery in this book has several different layers that are rooted in myth and legend, which warmed my nerdy little heart. Herne isn’t a god we see often, and I appreciated the way Russell used his myth to her advantage. There are twists and turns that fit perfectly with the world the author had created. There was a cleverness here I really appreciated, and though the “bad guy” wasn’t exactly a surprise given previous events, it wasn’t as readily apparent as I would have guessed. Overall, it was another step forward in the larger story and a clever mystery for Matt to solve, while also redeeming himself.
I’m invested in this series and this book was a great addition Matt continues to grow and learn, while remaining himself at his heart. And as the larger through line gets more complex, it leads into the next book, which is out in a few weeks and I can’t wait to get my hands on it. If you’re a fan of supernatural and mystery, tossed together with engaging characters and some cheeky fun, this series is definitely one you should pick up.
As a side note: Russell has several series that all take place in the same Mythmatched universe, and there’s quite a bit of overlap between characters and backstories. While the author does a good job of giving all pertinent information in each book, it is helpful if you’ve read them all. If you’re a fan of this author and series, I highly suggest checking them out.