Guilt by Association, (Hazard and Somerset, #4), Gregory Ashe
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Publisher: Hodgkin and Blount
Tags: Murder/Mystery, Humour, Gay Romance, Genre Fiction, Series
Length: 390 Pages
Purchase At: amazon
Everything in Emery Hazard’s life is finally going well: his boyfriend, Nico, is crazy about him; he has a loyal partner at work; and he has successfully closed a series of difficult murders. By all accounts, he should be happy. What he can’t figure out, then, is why he’s so damn miserable.
After a fight with Nico, Hazard needs work to take his mind off his relationship. And someone in town is happy to oblige by murdering the sheriff. The job won’t be easy; the sheriff had enemies, lots of them, and narrowing down the list of suspects will be difficult. Difficult, but routine.
The arrival of a special prosecutor, however, throws the case into turmoil, and Hazard and Somers find themselves sidelined. With an agenda of his own, the prosecutor forces the case toward his favorite suspect, while Hazard and Somers scramble to find the real killer. As the people they care about are drawn into the chaos, Hazard and Somers have to fight to keep what they love–and to keep each other. To find the killer, they will have to reveal what each has kept buried for years: their feelings for each other.
And for Hazard, that’s a hell of a lot scarier than murder.
**TREAT AS A SPOILER REVIEW**
First of all, it sucks to be a Bingham. Wahredua royalty is getting wiped out and it couldn’t happen to a nicer family. Bye, Binghams.
Second, it isn’t just the annoying Binghams that are being hit by the karma bus. Good to see. Why yes, I do love payback. This book was a satisfying read in regards to that. Cheers. Thank you. I’ll take it.
The same format awaits us in Guilt by Association as the prior books – murdered and/or missing people. There are the original suspects. Then lots more suspects. There’s plenty of questioning. Lots of deducing. Annoying people raise their hands. Cravens gets wheeled out like Hannibal Lecter to say, ‘you boys need to behave’. To throw stern looks at Hazard and warn him, ‘you’ll be doing traffic duty’. Or, ‘you’ll be sitting behind a desk until the 12th of never’. That ‘this isn’t your case,’ for reasons. And ‘the Mayor thinks… blah blah blah about you’. Poor Cravens, she of the hourglass figure and put-upon ways. The female chief is such a token. Of course, the guys step in, step up, and do what they do best because they’re local, and they’re awesome: Just ask them. They also acquire some more head trauma along the way. Hazard gets angry and breaks several phones by throwing them, breaks keyboards by crushing them with his “mitt” hands – I’m not lying – and rips shirts… again. He rips off a radio knob in the car. Somers gets drunk… again. He ties one on in St Taffy’s, the local cop pub… again. He loses his shit until they get Hazard, the Somers whisperer. And you know what? I don’t know how he isn’t hurling all the next day. His liver is his superpower.
I liked the investigation. Sheriff Bingham, long ensconced crooked official within the local community, has had half his head blown off while shooting skeet with some of his inner sanctum. Apparently they’re were there to shoot the shit but mostly to discuss and support the sheriff in regards to the recall petition. Conveniently, not one guest seems to have noticed what happened exactly when the sheriff was shot in the head. Then there’s the protestors around the sheriff’s property as well – Wahredua loves a good protest or twenty – headed up by everyone’s favourite eunuch advocate, or is that fetishist? Professor Fukuma. What does she know? She has a gripe with
everyone Sheriff Bingham. Oh, to listen to her vocalised effluvium once again. And because one of the Ozark Volunteers’ members is garnering support as a Sheriff candidate, Naomi Malsho is back again. She of the hate-filled, unbridled self expression. However, they add colour to the events and the investigation. I wasn’t so happy in the beginning with a suspect in absentia as part of the plot, that happened in the first Borealis book as well, but I think I should just smile and shut up for now because I’m sure we’ll get more about the Ozark’s finest, the Rutters, soon enough. The ones that look like they came “out of a goat.” Apparently. Which, I have to be honest, made me laugh. Speaking of laughing, the humour in this book hits the mark. Before this particular series book I didn’t find much to be especially humorous. Bitter, twisted, angering, nasty, teasing, promising, yes. Funny? Not really. But this book changed that.
I was cheering for the romance. It seems to be falling into place slowly, and quite rightly so given the MC’s history. I felt the love. I had one moment where I clutched my goddamned chest. I’ve turned into a caricature of a romance reader, and for all this series is spruiked as gay fiction – it is – it is also very much a teasing and touching, long-game – as in I’ve loved him for twenty years – romance.
What worked for me?
The writing in this instalment about this town I always spell wrong and try to recheck in each review, probably fail, is good. I see the Borealis writer more here. The prose has started hitting some more lyrical notes. The scenery. The town around them. Increasingly, their individual ruminations. Their ability to be detective partners is on point now and they feel and read more comfortable as a team. They’re moving toward being partner-partners as well, but things – hello, Nico, Hazard’s co-dependency, the past – conspire and get in the way. Cora, Somers’ wife, is never especially in the way. She ethereally floats in and out. She dodges Somers because she’s already started to live her life again… because she knows. She knows that John-Henry’s heart belongs to someone else. Clearly it became apparent to her, and others, after Emery Hazard came back into town. She’s no fool. He is the father of their child, Evie, and she’s now making the effort to share the responsibility. I mean, the original infidelity aside, it has to be hard for Cora because J-H has a drinking problem. He is also in love with the original “town gay” and not everyone likes gay people in Wahredua, which shouldn’t but will probably have blowback on Cora and Evie. It already has on Somers. I like Cora. Her sister, however, a big nope. Not sure what will happen there because while Naomi is poisonous, she is also thin and beautiful.
This pair are now not as defensive and rigid. Well, Hazard is always rigid, but he’s 2 millimetres more humorous and 1 millimetre less defensiveness now. Hey, for Hazard that’s quite a bit of new ground. I’m looking forward to their progress.
I was mentally enmeshed with the murder/mystery. Plenty to work on. Plenty of activity. Plenty of investigation. Definitely enough to keep me happy. Murder/mystery, procedurals, suspense were what I used to read a lot of prior to reading romance.
Returning characters fill some of the pages, as mentioned, but there is also a new player in town to help
score points with this case. Someone from Jeff City who passes too close to Hazard for it to be healthy for anyone. This guy speaks perfect political prattle and is taking the lead and fieldwork away from the local police, code for Somers and Hazard as they head up homicide in town. Cassella is here because of the dodgy mayor and because he’s ambitious and this is enough of a case to raise his profile some more. That made things… interesting.
“He lied about just getting to Wahredua today.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Last night, Cassella was here. In town. And then the next day, the sheriff gets shot, and he happens to be called in as the special prosecutor. Doesn’t that seem strange to you?”
I thought it was a big step that John-Henry finally accepted how he personally felt for Hazard, that it was worth it to be vulnerable enough to let those three words out. That he knew this was something needed for Emery to be able to let go and maybe give any possible relationship between them a chance. He listened to Cora. He listened to Hazard because it was there in Hazard’s (sparse but sad) words. I just wish that Hazard’s response would have been slightly different. However, I know he’s still not over what happened, and I’m there with him. He’s dropped one wall but he still has hurtful emotions that haven’t really surfaced enough to be washed away. Not yet. John-Henry is certainly a puzzle-piece of those suppressed emotions. Of what is still to come. Hazard just isn’t sure yet about how it all fits together, not at a conscious level. He doesn’t have all the answers he needs to believe and forgive completely. But he wants to. He came back for a reason though. I just liked that Hazard and Somers start to get their relationship together, although there is a “but” to that. But it can’t be this simple. But there is a shitstorm brewing in the background. But Gregory Ashe won’t allow them to get off so readily. There is way more to come for them to stress and angst and hurt over.
What didn’t work so much?
Hazard is so frustratingly uncommunicative. He literally grunts unless it’s about work. He treads on everyone. Not that people are a bed of roses in this shitty town but he doesn’t tend to differentiate between friend or foe. He’s been hurt a great deal, yes, but there are good therapists out there, Hazard. Just saying. Mind you, where would the story be in that? I don’t like Wahredua. I just wouldn’t live there, but that’s me. Maybe I’m fortunate in where I get to live, but rethink your location, guys.
Pretty much the beginning paragraph of Guilt by Association is Hazard thinking he needs to break up with Nico. Nico is annoying. But Hazard also thinks Nico is nice to him. Not many people have been. Not men. Certainly not partners. He’s been hurt. But Nico isn’t right for Hazard and vice versa. He had tantrums about his first boyfriend in book #1. Nico is twenty-two, an underwear model – there are a lot of beautiful, beautiful people in this book, cue Marilyn Manson – and he likes to go dance and be seen and admired at the Pretty Pretty, the local gay bar, and Hazzard doesn’t. He prefers documentaries about Bedouin Camel Herders, Tanks of WWII or anything else that my husband would definitely watch that makes him fall asleep by 9.30pm. But there’s about forty years between them in age. So Hazard, you’re an old man, okay? It’s not the difference in age between you. Hazard, your what? Thirty four? Nico is in the way. Nico is co-dependence.
And, dear lord. When Somers decided to organise Operation Get Nico Back for Hazard I’m pretty certain there have been different moments of unexplained seismic activity around the world as readers of this series yelled, “Oh, hell no!” at one time or another. Even Somers knew it was bad all round.
“You’re not still thinking about him, are you? We’ll get him back. Don’t worry about it.” What’s wrong with me, Somers wondered. What the hell is wrong with me that I just can’t keep my mouth shut?
The (secondary) characters for the most part remained pretty awful. Some are just clueless, a number are troubled, narrow-minded, none too bright, more than a few are blinded by ambition, and let’s not forget the homophobes. Wahredua is a trouble hotspot or magnet. It reminds me of the tagline for the show Eerie Indiana – ‘the centre of weirdness for the entire universe’. The upside to this is me watching the bigoted, hypocritical arseholes bite the bullet. Ahhhh. It feeds my soul and gives me dark fairy wings. The downside is that they annoy me for periods of time and sometimes their demise is too good for them. Just call me Petty Betty – I’m nicking my sons 500th drag name. There’s a lot of unpalatable homophobic chatter too. I’m not fussed with it, at all. It’s either the antagonists or other police or family members/townsfolk. In other words, a boat ton of people. However, part of the town they live and work in is most assuredly ‘I ain’t payin’ for 2 weddin’s’ central. So there’s that.
Gregory Ashe delivers another really solid and engaging murder/mystery in the well named Guilt by Association. He progresses Somers and Hazard’s relationship into a better place. It’s still tenuous but I felt like I could breathe a little easier by book’s end. Oh, and speaking of the end…
I had to use this scene from the movie of From Here to Eternity for the quote of John-Henry and Emery being intimate because I swear to god that’s what I kept thinking about or seeing – Deborah and Burt on the beach. It was the language and the imagery of Hazard and Somers’ first time. Hm. Yes. My age is showing.
I’m having a little break from these guys and this author to recalibrate slightly. I need to diversify my authors a little for the blog. If I’m correct in my calculations, I’ve read about twelve Gregory Ashe books and listened to two audiobooks in just over a month. It’s been such a ride. It speaks volumes about my absolute enjoyment of this author and his characters. It’s a good place to take a pause, but I’ll be back for more Hazard and Somers soon enough. Wild horses couldn’t keep me away. But in the meantime, Guilt by Association gets 4.5 Stars!