Rating: 5 Stars

Publisher: Hodgkin & Blount 

Tags: Mystery/Suspense, PI Work, Humour, LGBTQ, Gay Romance. TW:  Trafficking. Off-Page & On-Page Murder.

Length: 335 Pages 

Reviewer: Kazza 

Purchase At: amazon

Blurb:

They killed a girl to keep their secrets. They won’t stop there.

A new home, a fresh start, a chance to do things right this time—and Shaw and North are determined to make it work. But the night of their housewarming party, things don’t go as planned. A reporter arrives, wanting to talk to North about his ex-husband, his father, and a criminal syndicate. No sooner have they gotten rid of her than another unwanted guest appears: a street boy named Nik, whom Shaw met months before, begging them to help him find his missing friend, Malorie.

Retracing Malorie’s steps, North and Shaw learn about the dangerous demimonde of runaway teenagers. Their investigation takes them into the path of men and women who have learned to profit off the suffering and abandonment of children: shelters, clinics, labor brokers, and pimps.

Meanwhile, North’s Uncle Ronnie is set on revenge, and his target this time is North’s father. As North struggles to track down Ronnie and put an end to the danger, he finds himself considering a deal with the devil, and the offer might be too good to pass up.

When North and Shaw find Malorie’s body, evidence suggests she was murdered—and that her death is connected in some way with a truck stop halfway across the state. But as they draw closer to the truth, the danger grows. The people who killed Malorie have the Borealis detectives in their sights, and North and Shaw must race to save their own lives before the killers can strike again.

Review: 

This is the 4th and last? of this particular Borealis series. I’m assuming it will potentially go into some other Borealis series? My question marks say it all. I don’t know. If the whole Shaw and North thing ends here I’m super sad because I’m addicted to them, I can’t even explain how bad my addiction is. But I’m also good with it because it ended well. Codirection was the hot glue gun of the two iterations of the Borealis series.

This book isn’t a perfectly stitched together piece. But none of them in the series tend to be. Vinnikov is a thread in the air. If it continues I’m sure he’ll be back. A journalist throws cold water on a party Shaw and North are having in the beginning at their new home. She lets them know that Tucker is out of jail, badgering North about a story Tucker is giving her, North should give his side. It initially triggers North. Queue a potential for drama. Then the reporter disappears along with any Tucker shitfest in tow. A seemingly dead in the water arc. But Tucker can die in a fire for all I care about that abusive, duplicitous, miserable POS. So I’m certainly not sorry he stayed away for this book. Anyway, three cheers, the guys are finally living together. There’s more fun amongst the thoughts, the tiredness, and they most certainly are tired during this case, also around the continuing fallout from the human pustule that is Uncle Ronnie. Especially North. He cops a beating or five – literally and metaphorically. But there’s no more tension now over someone going to their respective home or whether they should or should not stay over. That made me happy.

There are new neighbours who are in the book at the beginning and at the end and it was genuinely nice seeing the guys fitting in. However, people in the Shaw and North Show only get trotted out to add something other than mystery and internal rumination about how to have a relationship and what that means. They’re an attempt at some kind of normalcy for these guys – ‘Hey, look. Shaw and North can interact with others’. Especially North, who has the social skills of an Eastern Brown. Even Shaw, who hits peak tangential, boundaryless, out-loud thoughts about North’s anatomy, North’s love life, Shaw being a level 5 psychic, and having meditation with Master Herme’s long dead cat who met Rasputin’s dead aunt twice removed. I made that up… but it’s not far off the mark.

Nik reappears, he briefly met Shaw in Indirection when Shaw was on a job as bait. Nik is a disenfranchised street kid, one who sells himself to make ends meet. Shaw gave him a Borealis business card for if he ever needed help. Well, Nik needs some help as his friend Mallory has disappeared and he’s distressed about it. I loved the addition of Nik. He’s a typical teenage boy except he comes with the addition of a life that has been redirected toward the unkind, the painful. Of having sold himself and has done/is still doing drugs. He falls in crush with Shaw, pretty much everyone does, and he has attitude towards North. I thought it was so well written. He plays games, gets squicked out as only teenagers can at old people intimacy – meaning anyone over twenty – cherry picks what he hears, tends heavily towards messy, and is hormonal as heck. He and Shaw and North are fun to watch. It’s like they have a teenage child of their own, other than the crush side. He fits right in between them personality-wise. North gives Nik a hard time. Shaw gives him comfort… and North’s clothing to wear. North has no ill will, a scene later on between them shows just how understanding North is. He lived a tough life with his dad, not like Nik has, but he inherently understands Nik.

The mystery was both gripping and painful. The reality is that no one particularly cares about the homeless, even homeless children. Very few do much about those who are preyed upon by adults out to make a dollar at their expense. Even woeful parents have a lot of latitude in the way they treat their own children, to be honest, let alone those who throw them to the wolves. There are a number of truly awful people in this world and we get to see a few of those awful types in this book. Some people are lucky and never see this first hand, others experience it up close and personal and I have very strong feelings about this topic. Even though we never meet her, I knew Mallory really well. I felt for Nik. It’s easy to see him as some annoying kid, but it helps to understand teenagers, and it pays to look deeper at the emotional damage underneath.

By the end of the previous bookRedirection, I felt worn down by the relationship of Shaw and North. The humour became mean-spirited. They definitely needed some patching up and a trajectory that showed they were moving forward. I know problematic relationships (in particular) don’t work in a linear line, but there is only so much patience for sliding down a steep relational slope with favourite characters. I am eternally grateful for Codirection because it gave me humorous Shaw and North, and they were on song. It gave me a more cohesive Shaw and North, as cohesive as these guys get. I mean, they have some gaping dependency and attachment issues but I’m fine with that because, after all, it is Shaw and North. Now they have a more substantial, declared love. Now they know they are dedicated to one another, having each other’s backs in their own ways.

Speaking of having backs, what a grand gesture by you, Shaw. I’m stanning hard once again. Shadow work, ha! I’m not sure Jung had this in mind… although…. But you keep doing you, Shaw, because you were on point. You had scary clarity and you were abso-fucking-lutely right. He would have kept coming back. North needed protection. Your extended family, you too. You did this for those you love and feel need protecting. North is your psychological Berlin Wall (book#1). He’s the ‘best man’ you know. He loves you and that means all the 10ths of everything to you. While you rub others backs and meditate and buy vegan, you sneak meat and donuts, and Coca-Cola. Lots of Coca-Cola. While you appear gentle and fragile, and while North seems big and talks tough, he barks at others, North is the one who truly doesn’t want to hurt people, not really, he lives more within the law, and you make certain that you’ve got the bases covered as needed.

North saying ‘Hay is for horses’ once again took me back to my father. The second time in one of my Borealis reviews my father gets a mention. He was always pulling out the Cockney Alphabet version – A is for horses B for mutton, C for miles, etc, and L for leather was one of his favourites. It surprised me, put a smile on my face, took me back to a fond memory.

The American Spirits got a bit less of a work out by North, no particularly inventive reasons in this book (that I recall) as to why he smelt like smoke for Shaw. He maintains a stash of them though. They’re a running joke or ongoing moment of levity between the MCs, and for readers. However, they still make an appearance because they’re a coping mechanism, a misery stabiliser, for North. I liked that certain things, often little things amongst the big, remained a constant in the series books. Like the following sentence North always utters to Shaw as if he constantly sees him for the first time-

“God, you’re beautiful,” North whispered.

Jadon Reck continues to have my interest. In my mind he’s literally gone from annoying me to my being more and more invested in him. He has a pretty high tolerance for North – patience award incoming – and he still has some residual feelings for Shaw, and Shaw uses that to get information on cases, but someone else is now on the scene and it looks like Jadon can start moving on. I’m hoping it’ll be good for you, Jadon, because, let’s be honest, Shaw never would have been. Your beliefs and Shaw’s aren’t exactly in simpatico. And if anyone was designed for one other human being to understand them, that’s Shaw. North is his person.

Overview:

I’m not a huge series reader, I’m prone to boredom, but once Shaw and North grabbed me in Orientation they refused to let me go. In return I’m pretty sure I’ve turned On Top Down Under into their personal shrine. I love them. I won’t lie though, Borealis and I have had a couple of rough moments, I started unsure, and certain things found me arguing with the guys, even the author, via my Kindle – I have felt every feeling humanly possible while reading – but Shaw and North never once stopped being at the forefront of my mind. I felt inexorably drawn to them time and again, and I read this series as quickly as I possibly could. My family even became a part of the series as well, having impromptu book groups about it, it may have been forced but who cares, we are a close, crazy and loving family, one that says random things, which meant I could totally relate to these pro level random guys. I came back for more and more because the characters Gregory Ashe has created here are a mix of acutely annoying and even more unrelentingly important and meaningful to me. I’m exceedingly glad I found the Borealis series. 5 Stars!