Rating: 4 Stars

Publisher: Hodgkin and Blount

Tags: Murder/Mystery, Cops/Detectives, (Working Toward) Enemies to Lovers, Psychological, Angst, Dark. TW: Rape Mentioned. Homophobia. Use of Derogatory Words. 

Length: 460 Pages

Reviewer: Kazza

Purchase At: amazon

Blurb:

It’s almost Christmas, and Emery Hazard finds himself face to face with his own personal nightmare: going on a double date with his partner—and boyhood crush—John-Henry Somerset. Hazard brings his boyfriend; Somers brings his estranged wife. Things aren’t going to end well.

When a strange call interrupts dinner, however, Hazard and his partner become witnesses to a shooting. The victims: Somers’s father, and the daughter of a high school friend. The crime is inexplicable. There is no apparent motive, no connection between the victims, and no explanation for how the shooter reached his targets.

Determined to get answers, Hazard and Somers move forward with their investigation in spite of mounting pressure to stop. Their search for the truth draws them into a dark web of conspiracy and into an even darker tangle of twisted love and illicit desire. And as the two men come face to face with the passions and madness behind the crime, they must confront their own feelings for each other—and the hard truths that neither man is ready to accept.

**TRIGGER WARNINGS FOR THIS REVIEW**

Review:

God. Wahredua. What a toxic town full of vile, poisonous people. I have no clue why you would ever want to live there or subject your children to growing up there. Why you would actively go back there. This book definitely spotlights that last point. At least it does to me – like shining lights in my ophthalmologist drop-filled eyes.

Two people are shot at Somer’s parent’s house at a Christmas party. One died, Sheriff Bingham’s granddaughter, Bingham Jnr’s – or “Bing’s” – daughter, and one is wounded, Somer’s father. Glenn Somerset is not father of the year material, not even close, but Somers is upset about his father nonetheless and doesn’t like Hazard’s train of thought: Like Somerset Snr has motive. His mother, Grace Elaine, was in a particularly weird combination of flirtatious and me-ow at the party way before any shooting went down. It seems either one of them could have motive enough to have hired “Santa,” aka Wayne Stillwell. Maybe to kill Hadley Bingham. Maybe to kill Glenn Somerset. Maybe both. But Glenn Somerset was also shot. Was Somerset Snr having an affair with Hadley? Grace Elaine has her own skeletons as well, including an affair with a family friend. “Santa” was naked, high as a kite, strange, and came from Smithfield, the (very) wrong side of the Wahredua tracks, so it’s easy convenient to solely pin things on the ‘crazy’, deadbeat shooter. How did he get the gun though? What about an ad that is similar to one used before on Craigslist? One that got Stillwell involved.

At the end of the day, there really are plenty of suspects in regards to the shooting. However, the chief of police, in conjunction with the mayor and the sheriff, declares the murderer is Stillwell- case closed. Yeah. Sure. As if that’s going to stop Hazard and Somers from investigating. It’s all too neat for them so they do what they do best. Go digging. I did have a chuckle, all the suspects talk to Somers and Hazard when they’re not even supposed to be investigating. More than a few of the suspects call Hazard awful, derogatory names, none of which sat well on me. Way too much use of “f@ggot,” etc, for my liking. Still, perplexingly, these adults, who all think Hazard is beneath them and by default Somers, do talk and talk…and talk. They needed to listen to the Pot Brothers at Law and STFU. Or when one boy asks for his mother to be around, they talk to him without her anyway. Good lord. But because Hazard and Somers have different theories it causes tension between them. I mean there’s already a bucket-load of tension, but now there’s a cement mixer full. Love and longing, Guilt. Anger. More longing. This book ramps it waaayy up. The only real thing Hazard and Somers agree on for a while is the suspect’s serendipitous shooting in custody – supposedly trying to escape – has taken out a person who could hold answers they need. That Detective Lender was involved in the suspect’s shooting makes it fishy as fuck.

This instalment is dark. The people, unlikeable. What a cast of homophobes and knuckle-draggers await readers in Paternity Case. Grace Elaine Somerset. Glenn Somerset. The mayor. But the Bingham family, especially “Bing” Jnr and his wife, Daisy, take the coveted Crying Monkey Award: Epic Arseholitry category. They’re a disgrace. Somers is still quite clueless at (bad) times – hello, Big Biscuit – about what Hazard might feel and why. And for someone who is supposed to be the people-whisperer, he throws out things that are hurtful.  Yes, yes. I get it, poor John-Henry has an awful family to deal with, but…. There is always a but attached to Somers. He hit Hazard… but he was drinking. He dumped teenaged Hazard into a web of lies… but he had coach trouble. He can still be tone deaf about situations that understandably trigger Hazard… but his parents are awful. He is smirking and baiting… but his wife left him and he doesn’t see his daughter much. Through Somer’s inner monologue we know he threw Hazard under the bus when they were teens and has never fessed up… but it was his ‘bullying phase’. Like it’s somehow akin to an emo phase, or vegetarian phase, or learning to play the guitar phase. He pushed Hazard down the steps at school, broke his arm in doing so. BUT… he’s beautiful… and his eyes are tropical, Caribbean, tidal-pool blue. Jesus! Now that he’s thirty four? I think that’s how old he is, it’s hard to know because there is so much going on that the finer details sometimes get lost. Anyway, at thirty something he keeps reverting to what he knows, what he did as a high school teen. Somers, please think about the definition of insanity.

I started reading this author by way of the Borealis Investigations series and I am so glad I did because the writing of those books is really good. I completely and utterly love Shaw and North. It’s keeping me in this series because the writing in Borealis is such that it gives me faith this series will get so much better, and won’t that be something. There are so many gorgeous quotes in each individual Borealis book. This series, not as much. Not at this point. This seems to be the author’s first series, I could be wrong, I don’t pay a lot of attention, but I can see how much Gregory Ashe has grown in his character development, and his Shaw and North and Hazard and Somers characters are similar but different. He started with great characters here but these characters, Hazard and Somers, are pretty rough around the edges. A lot of internalised homophobia and toxic masculinity exist. The books I’ve read so far, especially this one, would have been better served with a sensitivity reader giving them a once over. Can I tell you that “gaping arsehole” as a derogatory term, usually muttered by Hazard, disgusts this reader on multi levels.

The sexual tension is seriously at DEFCON 1 now. Nico is with Hazard, still, but Nico is so disposable. Sorry, Nico. That talk Hazard gave you was a massive red flag. You had your chance, you should have run. The tortured Hazard and Somers love that we see trying to breech the levee is still being dragged through the mud and sludge like an old gumboot. I like some UST but, sistah, this is past tension and into we’ve gone round the twist territory. I have some serious reader aggravation.

Hazard hits peak Neanderthal in this book. Punching, threatening, pushing, shoving, grunting answers. He’s also a shirt ripper extraordinaire, and this isn’t the only time-

“Nico.” Hazard said, yanking on Nico’s shirt hard enough to pop every button. They pinged like pinballs as they struck the windshield. “No more talking.”

I don’t know, can’t you just undo a shirt? Take it off? In and of itself it’s sexy, but combined with other factors it’s aggressive. I understand he has significant mental cues that hurt, really hurt, that suspects and people in the town are obnoxious and ram home how much of a “degenerate” cousin he is, or remind him of what could have been, what he lost. But I’m looking for growth.

And maybe it was true because Emery Hazard had never had room in his life for imaginary monsters—there had been too many real ones.

One of the things that made me most happy with Paternity Case is that John-Henry Somerset improved a lot by the latter section of the book. He truly starts thinking outside of himself. He doesn’t just talk a game, he begins to walk it. Two things he did made me sit up and say, I might just embrace you yet, Somers. Good for you. But they still persist with we’re just (detective) partners, just friends. To them both that’s better than nothing at all. But I love you, I want to be near you and with you, around you, in you, over you is left unsaid by them both… but they’re thinking these things in amongst denial. I’m waiting for it, for that levee to break. I’ll be glad when they find each other and exhibit some settled and cohesive behaviour.

In the meantime, if the murders continue like this and the one in Pretty Pretty Boys I’m mostly happy to continue reading this series. They were both very intense and riveting murder/mysteries in and of themselves. And I most certainly lived a lot of emotions reading Paternity Case4 Stars!