Author: T.A. Moore
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: MM, Romantic Suspense
Summary: Cloister Witte is a man with a dark past and a cute dog. He’s happy to talk about the dog all day, but after growing up in the shadow of a missing brother, a deadbeat dad, and a criminal stepfather, he’d rather leave the past back in Montana. These days he’s a K-9 officer in the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and pays a tithe to his ghosts by doing what no one was able to do for his brother—find the missing and bring them home.
He’s good at solving difficult mysteries. The dog is even better.
This time the missing person is a ten-year-old boy who walked into the woods in the middle of the night and didn’t come back. With the antagonistic help of distractingly handsome FBI agent Javi Merlo, it quickly becomes clear that Drew Hartley didn’t run away. He was taken, and the evidence implies he’s not the kidnapper’s first victim. As the search intensifies, old grudges and tragedies are pulled into the light of day. But with each clue they uncover, it looks less and less likely that Drew will be found alive.
Review: This is my first book by T.A. Moore and it certainly won’t be my last. Cloister Witte and Javi Merlo are such intriguing characters and the suspense is absorbing and complex. It’s also a police procedural that felt genuine and accurate, with a character driven plot. POV’s from both MC’s is always my preference and thank goodness, because both Cloister (fab name!) and Javi are very enigmatic characters. The suspense plot initially seemed straightforward but quickly expanded and the two are faced with a different sort of case than they’d expected. New leads and clues shift the focus of their efforts, mistakes are made, while coping with antagonism from suspects and victims alike. There’s a large cast of characters, with strong secondary and minor roles. Best secondary character award goes to Bourneville! I think K-9 officers are often under appreciated and I loved this depiction.
Javi and Cloister apparently butted heads before, and their verbal sparring belies the attraction they both feel. Cloister’s thoughts reveal enough to understand some of what drives him, but Javi remains opaque, giving the reader just enough to indicate some influential event in his past. Javi is a also grade-A jerk; I have no other nouns that aren’t profane. Javi is a control freak too, initiating sexual encounters, setting boundaries and demanding Cloister’s submission, although Cloister is far from submissive in acquiescing. It’s raw, physical and very hot sex, but offers no obvious tenderness or romance, unless you look closely! There were drawbacks for me that kept the story from being truly stellar. In the first few chapters, a couple of names and events, surrounding the police department, popped up with little or no context. I pieced it together over the course of reading, but initially, I thought I’d missed something in the narrative. I also identified the suspect early on, and the circumstances seemed more like a plot hole than a deliberate choice. The tone of the book also felt gritty and harsh to me, and didn’t lighten up much, since any humor was dry or sarcastic. I don’t consider that any fault in the writing but it did affect my enjoyment.
I would strongly recommend the book to suspense lovers and those who can appreciate the psychological aspects. I’m hoping that this might be a series or at least have a sequel. There’s not a cliffhanger or anything but it ends with a very tentative HFN and there’s so much still to learn about these two.