Tean and Jem are attending a wildlife professional conference in Missouri. Jem is so proud of Tean, who is presenting at the conference, even if Jem’s self-esteem is taking a hit. All Jem wants is for Tean to be proud of him, but Jem never seems to feel like he is good enough for Tean and his colleagues.
With too much time on his hands, Jem falls back into old patterns and finds himself in the middle of a wildlife trafficking ring. Then, the head of the conference goes missing, and Tean’s colleague and friend from school is charged with her murder. There are things that Jem shouldn’t have seen and those involved want to stop Jem and Tean from learning the truth. Dodging danger and violence all aimed their way, Tean and Jem meet with some unexpected allies.
The Face in the Water is the first book in Ashe’s Iron on Iron series, but I don’t feel that this book can be read on its own. Tean and Jem are the main characters in Ashe’s The Lamb and the Lion series, and this book and this series also crosses over with several of Ashe’s other series. Emery and John-Henry from the Hazard and Somerset world, Shaw and North from the Borealis Investigations series, and Theo and Auggie from The First Quarto series all appear here and it’s certainly helpful to be familiar with some, if not all of their stories.
This is predominantly Jem and Tean’s book, as they are the main characters here and all of the action is seen through their points of view. Both men feel out of their element to be at the conference for different reasons. Tean doesn’t like to be out of his routine and have to interact with colleagues and, while Jem was the one that persuaded Tean to present at the conference, his history still has a way of dragging him down. Jem and Tean’s relationship is solid, but Jem still feels that one day Tean will have regrets.
The main characters in Ashe’s books, more often than not, find themselves in the middle of a murder and there is always a cast of characters surrounding the plot. This time there are the locals and the other conference attendees, but also the many characters from Ashe’s other series. Some of them have crossed over before, but Jem and Tean haven’t met any of them and there is a new vibe introduced with Tean and Emery in the same room.
For reasons, these men are often involved in a murder investigation, even when the ones who are in law enforcement are off the clock. I often wonder how these men come across murder wherever they go and sometimes I also wonder what is the hook that should keep me interested with some of the victims.
There’s some humor here that goes way back to the core of the couples that have been together for so long and some slapstick-style antics with getting the entire group together for several pivotal scenes. This is the start of a new series and the overall story does not end here and the next location will be Theo and Auggie’s home. Long time readers of Ashe’s work will find something to like here, as this large crossover world continues to bring action and danger to all involved.