solstice coverRating: 4.75 stars
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Length: Novel

 

Gabriel has moved back to his small hometown of Prophet, Washington from his job as an undercover cop in LA. His experience left him with some deep emotional wounds and he’s come back with hopes of repairing his relationship with his brother and finding a more quiet life as the town sheriff. Gabriel has seen his share of violent death, but he never expected to find it in Prophet. When Gabriel is called to a murder scene at Sentinel Rocks, a sacred Makah site in the national park, the sight of the dead body leaves him cold. The steady rain for the last day means that most of the evidence is washed away. Not to mention that there are too many suspects, the feds who are supposed to take the case are unable to get there for days, and nothing about the case or the body seems to make much sense.They also find a dog at the site who appears to have belonged to the murdered man. The dog is stressed and they are unable to catch him, but they’re worried he is wounded and could also contaminate the murder site, making it more difficult to catch the killer.

Tiber likes his quiet life in Prophet. He works as an animal behavioralist doing online consulting and mostly keeps to himself. Tiber prefers animals over people and has a house full of dogs, cats, and even a rabbit and a tortoise. When Gabriel comes to Tiber for help, Tiber initially bristles at Gabriel’s attitude and skepticism over Tiber’s abilities, but he is not going to leave a dog in need. Tiber is able to calm the Labrador, who they learn is named Duke, but the dog is clearly traumatized by witnessing the murder of his owner. He’s also depressed and hurting from losing somebody that he loves. Tiber is determined to protect Duke and help him heal from the trauma.

Gabriel is surprised by how drawn he is to Tiber. Tiber feels an attraction in return, however he is determined not to act on it after his complicated past relationship. Yet the men keep finding ways to see each other and the connection is clearly there between them. However, Gabriel still has a lot of work to do if he hopes to solve the murder. Nothing about the case seems to make sense, plus there are so many suspects, ranging from the Bigfoot enthusiasts who are wandering the woods, to a group that has come to town to worship at the Sentinel Rocks, to locals who are contesting the ownership of the land that the rocks sit on. Gabriel hoped that returning home would mean the end of the violence he experienced in LA. But now that he is back in Prophet, he is determined to do everything he can to solve the crime and find the killer.

Solstice is the first book in the new Lake Prophet Mystery series by Eli Easton and R.J. Scott. I enjoy both of these authors’ writing individually, so I was really excited and intrigued when I saw that they had a new series together. This story really takes advantage of both of the authors’ strengths and I loved this book so much, I could barely put it down. The mystery is interesting and well developed and takes great advantage of the setting. The authors really bring the beautiful area to life, and they paint such wonderful pictures of the Olympic Mountains and the national park and the lovely scenery. Prophet is also a quirky small town with some interesting characters and there really is a great sense of place to the book. The mystery captured my attention right from the start, as there are a lot of intriguing elements and I really enjoyed seeing the investigation all come together. Gabriel has a young deputy and he spends a lot of time mentoring him throughout the case, which gives us as readers a nice window into his thought process and how the case is developing. There are a lot of different suspects and it was interesting to see Gabriel delve into who is behind it all and why, and I think it all comes together really well and with some nice emotional resonance.

The most fascinating element for me, and something that I think makes this book really stand out, is the way that the victim’s dog is brought into the story. Tiber is an animal behavioralist, so he is incredibly knowledgeable and connected to the way animals act and he’s good at interpreting their behavior and their moods. When they realize that Duke has witnessed the murder, Tiber knows it is likely that he would be able to recognize the killer if he came across them. I found it fascinating the way the authors bring out this animal connection, and we see how Tiber relates not just to Duke, but to the other animals that are in his family. He talks to them almost like people and you can see he has this incredible way of understanding what they want and need and are trying to tell him. There is a very light paranormal element here in that Tiber has some mild empath skills. There is a sense that it is more than just his knowledge and understanding of animals, but also a little bit of a “sight” that he has as well. I really found it all so fascinating and I loved they way that type of insight into Duke helps them to solve the crime, and how Duke himself ends up actually being a major part of finding the killer of this man that he loved. I will note that the Duke is not physically harmed in the story and things end up happy for him in the end. But just be aware that we definitely see him going through some emotional trauma after his owner is killed and so there are some intense moments here in the aftermath of it all if this is something that you might be sensitive about.

From a relationship end, the story is a slow burn. Both Gabriel and Tiber have some intense pasts and we just start to uncover them throughout the book. We know that Gabriel used to be an undercover cop in LA and it’s clear that something really dark went down there that has affected him and caused him to come home. We also know that he has had a falling out with his brother and he’s trying to reconnect with him now that he’s back in town. For Tiber, he had a bad relationship that was emotionally abusive and has left him wary about getting involved again. Gabriel reaches out and wants to initiate something between them, but Tiber is resistant. It’s very clear that there’s a connection and that the guys are building something, but right now they are still in the early stages and Tiber is still wary. We are also just beginning to uncover some of the backstory for each of these men and, again, there’s more to come as the series continues. The series will feature Gabriel and Tiber throughout the books, so it will give us a chance to get to know them more. I think given that the mystery is so front and center, the slower pace of the relationship works well. I really liked both of these guys and find them interesting, well-developed characters, and I enjoy the connection that the two of them have.

I am really excited about the series and just loved this story so much. The authors write together very seamlessly. Their voices are in sync and the story feels very smooth and fluid. The mystery was interesting and well developed and the added element of the way that Tiber interacts with Duke and how Duke participates in the ultimate resolution was just fascinating and really engaging. The setting is lovely and the side characters are interesting, and I found the story so engaging I really couldn’t put it down. I’m definitely looking forward to continuing on and can highly recommend this one.

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