A Forest of Corpses (Alexander Spider Mystery #2)

Title & Link: A Forest of Corpses
Author: P.A. Brown
Publisher: Bristlecone Pine Press
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Contemporary M/M, BDSM, Mystery/Action
Length: Novel (252 paperback pages)
Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars

A guest review by Buda

Summary Review: A worthy follow-up to the original, exploring different dynamics in the romantic relationship and the consequences of a vacation-gone-wrong.

The Blurb:

Welcome to the Los Padres National Forest. A vacation from hell. Can Alex and Jason survive?

In this sequel to The Geography of Murder, Santa Barbara Homicide detective Alexander Spider and his lover of seven months, Jason Zachary are still struggling to make their intense but troubled love affair work. To this end Jason talks city boy Alex into a hiking trip in Los Padres National Forest, something Alex has never done. Only his love for Jason makes him agree. Spider is not an outdoor type guy but for Jason he will go. His first introduction to ‘roughing it’ is fraught with humorous horrors. Then during an arduous backwoods hike the pair stumble on the decaying bodies of missing hikers, the most recent one barely cold. They were hikers killed for stumbling onto a major grow-op hidden in the vast wilderness. Now Alex and Jason are in a race for their lives.

The Review:

A Forest of Corpses, the sequel to The Geography of Murder (reviewed by Kassa here) picks up a couple of months after Geography ends, with Alex back at work with the SBPD and Jason taking classes toward a degree in biology.  Alex has a new partner,  Miguel Dominguez (whom Alex describes as a “savior of sinners and sodomites alike”), as his former partner, Nancy Pickard, has been promoted to Lieutenant. Alex and Miguel work together uneasily but effectively, as the first part of the book details their successful hunt for the murderer of  a homeless man.

The majority of the first half of the book sees both Jason and Alex giving the reader a run down of the missing months of their relationship (the part between the two books). As with Geography, this book is separated into seamlessly alternating first person points of view. By this time we know both of their voices very well and the personalities that were so well drawn in the first book remain in character in the second, while each undergoes sometimes painful growth. Their relationship is not something I am sure I will ever understand the “hows and whys” of, but I don’t need to. Brown writes these two in such a way that I simply accepted that this was the relationship each of them wants and needs, with each of the men getting something from the other, no matter how skewed the dynamics seem to me–and because it works for them, it works for me.

Jason asks Alex if they can take a vacation, hiking through the nearby national park forest. Even though Alex is a far cry from the nature type, he agrees they could use the time away together. If you’ve read the first book, you’ll remember that while punishing Jason for going to The Vault bar without permission, Alex lost control of his anger and the punishment session turned ugly, convincing Jason he needed to leave the relationship. Both men are still haunted by Alex’s loss of control. Alex is afraid to venture too far into the play, fearing he may again lose control. Jason senses this reluctance in Alex but, while still craving that sense of being controlled during their sex play, is unsure how to get Alex to move beyond his self-imposed boundary and give Jason what he needs. Both hope they will have some sort of breakthrough during the vacation.

Fate, however, has other plans. During the hike, Jason and Alex play well together, with Alex giving up control to the more experienced Jason. Each finds some new appreciation for the other, making the decision to go on the vacation a good one for their relationship. Four days into their hike, almost at the turnaround point, they stumble onto a massive marijuana growing area and the corpses of those who came before them. While trying  to get away, Alex is shot and Jason loses his iPhone. Jason must make the journey down the mountain to contact the authorities and save his lover. What follows is a harrowing tale, complete with bears (the animal kind, not human), frightened hikers, homicidal pot growers, hallucinations, and one remarkable German Shepherd. I won’t spoil the fun, so I’ll stop here.

I did have a few niggles, but nothing major. As in Geography, Alex and Jason don’t spend a lot of time actually talking to one another until they begin the hike. It’s something Jason himself mentions while watching Alex teach: “His voice was strong and sure. I never realized what a good public speaker he was. But then we didn’t spend a whole lot of time talking, did we?” Perhaps that is the nature of the D/s relationship, but I did take note of it in both books. During the murder investigation in the first part of the book, Brown reverts to the familiar gang theme seen in the L.A. Heat series. This angle is the least interesting part of the book to me, as it was then. Later, while Alex hides from his pursuers, he has lengthy hallucinations that I felt distracted from the plot. And just a warning to all you Spears fanbois and girls, my copy has a reference to “Johnny or Brittany (sic) or Oprah.” I’m sure it’s an unintentional misspelling, so I don’t want you going all toxic and trying to hit the author, baby, one more time. 🙂

I highly recommend this book to any PA Brown or mystery/action-adventure fan. But definitely read The Geography of Murder first so you know who these guys are. You won’t be disappointed.

22 comments

  • If you’ve read the first book, you’ll remember that while punishing Jason for going to The Vault bar without permission, Alex lost control of his anger and the punishment session turned ugly, convincing Jason he needed to leave the relationship. Both men are still haunted by Alex’s loss of control. Alex is afraid to venture too far into the play, fearing he may again lose control.

    Is this really as bad as it sounds? I have trouble reading D/s relationships sometimes, especially where I feel like the trust is mistaken or too freely given. I’d like to read this series, but I’m a little wary after reading a book with a scene that sounds similar to this, which turned me off of reading any BDSM for about a year..

    I guess my questions is this: Did Alex show enough regret over losing control? If he did, I probably won’t mind reading these. But if he doesn’t, I will not be able to handle it (like in that other book).

    I’m a delicate flower that way 😉

    Great review B

    Reply
    • Hi Cole, if I may offer my answer to your question, since I was REALLY angry at Alex after the end of the first book and thought Jason took him back way too easily.

      Believe me, I wanted him to suffer and suprisingly enough I was more than satisfied with how much he regretted his loss of control and I think there is a chance that you may be satisfied too. JMO of course.

      Reply
  • Thanks for the review Buda.
    I’ve read everyone’s comments about the prequel to this, “The Geography of Murder”, and to “Caught” and have been convinced to add them to my TBR list. I’ve not read much that contains BDSM, but have gotten more comfortable with it as I learn more about it (that’s not TMI, I mean learning through reading!) . This line in the review sealed it for me: “one remarkable German Shepherd” 🙂 But if anything bad happens to the dog I won’t be happy!

    Interesting, when I first looked at the cover art I saw a skull…..but it’s obviously a man bent over. Is it meant to look like a skull or have I been smokin what they guys found in the woods?

    Reply
  • Great review Buda! I’ve never heard of this author before, but your review has me completely intrigued so I’m off to read Kassa’s review of The Geography of Murder.

    And…should I be looking up Caught too?

    Reply
    • Thank you, orannia! PA Brown is a fine, detail-oriented writer, who (I think) has earned a 4+ rating for everything she’s had reviewed on this site. Her books aren’t light and fluffy for sure. If you like angsty, scenery-chewing reads, you’ll enjoy her books. If you choose to pick up Geography and Corpses, I hope you like them. Be sure and let me know what you think of them. 🙂

      Here’s the link to my review of Caught http://www.gaybook.reviews/?p=38677

      Reply
      • Thank you Buda. I love angst…and as scenery-chewing reads…WOW! The images that phrase produces… *grin*

        Oh, and I’ll have a look at Caught – thank you!

        Reply
  • Hey Buda

    Great review.

    I’m so glad you liked this one much better than a couple of the books in the LA series. So, as someone who doesn’t do the outdoors, would I enjoy this and be suitably scared? 🙂

    I still haven’t read Caught and I’m dying to find out the big secret.

    Reply
    • MAYBE A SPOILER!!!…but I think you would enjoy….

      I think the setting (national forest) was what made this especially intense & scary…what should be such a benign location, turned into such a nightmare. the scary fact is that the setting is not fiction, I know of people who have encountered meth labs in their tours of the local woods…….

      Reply
      • rdafan, my family used to have a farm out where I was raised (actually, my uncle still farms most of it). On one particular acre sat a one-room schoolhouse where my mother and her siblings went to elementary school. It’s about 10 miles from town and sort of isolated, with the nearest house being about a quarter mile away and half way down the river valley. About 5 years ago, the thing exploded in the middle of the night. A meth lab doing what meth labs are wont to do. And this in extreme Western Kansas! (I guess the explosion woke up people 3 miles away!) Times have changed out there, and not for the better it seems.

        Reply
        • It’s amazing to me what people will do, that’s why I thought the setting was especially intense & scary, beacuse it could be real..

          Reply
    • Wave, I think the idea of being a four-day hike from any sort of “civilization” surrounded by massive trees and truly wildlife would be an unsettling experience for any city-dweller. To make matters worse, Alex went in unarmed at Jason’s request. I’m guessing that won’t happen again! 🙂

      You must read Caught. I’m certain you’ll love it. There’s a little something in there for everyone, including the two surprises.

      Reply
  • Thank you very much for your review. I have read both books and liked them (as I like the L.A. Series).
    My only niggle is that the Spanish bits lack accuracy in some parts. I know people is not going to notice it, but in my case this just throws cold water on an otherwise enjoyable reading *sigh*
    This is not the first time I have seen something similar happening and I have commented about it before. I´m sure authors try their best when dealing with languages they are no familiar with, but I wish somewhere along the editing process it could be double checked using reliable sources.
    btw A.P. Gayle´s Caught has no surprises left for me: I couldn´t resist you(r review) *wink* loved it, thank you again 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Helena!

      You know, I meant to mention the amount of untranslated Spanish that is in this book, but I forgot. That part actually irritated me because I don’t speak the language. It would have been nice to have an English translation immediately follow. Having read some books with poorly constructed Russian, I understand how it dampens the enjoyment. I think it’s just one more thing we can add to the “that damn editor should have caught…!” list. I am glad you enjoyed the book otherwise, though!

      I’m thrilled you liked AB Gayle’s book! Did you like the surprises?

      Reply
      • I know, usually there is something else in English that at least gives an idea of what have been said in Spanish if the situation doesn´t make it clear enough.

        Oh, yes, I did. Hope we are talking about the same ones, at least I was surprised, even if I tried guessing all the time lol 🙂 Some moments are heartbreaking but I think they are wisely mixed with lighter or hot situations. I also liked the way their interaction is reversed by the end of the book so the support and care are show both ways. This is one of these books I would totally recommend.

        Reply
        • Helena, the Spanish parts were troublesome for me because there wasn’t any easy English follow up to most of the dialogue. Like anyone who had Spanish-speaking friends in childhood, I caught most of the curse words, but it has been a long time since I learned them. I’m sure I don’t remember them all correctly! lol

          I agree that the interaction reversal in Caught was perfect. I think it hinted at good things to come in a relationship. I’m looking forward to the sequel, which AB Gayle mentioned on Goodreads would be from Taylor’s POV.

          Reply
          • lol why curse words are the first to be picked out and the last to be forgotten? 🙂
            I know, in this case there is no way to follow all that is being said and even if some hints are there, the effect is lost.
            I don´t mind to translate the Spanish bits if you want.

            I totally agree with you, it´s one of these happy endings where the forever seems real, because you feel confident they are going to be able to deal with all the future ups and downs.
            And you have made my day with the news, I can´t wait for the sequel!!!

            Reply
      • Darn, and I got those Spanish phrases from someone who said they knew Spanish. I wanted to get the phrases right.

        Well, I’m glad you enjoyed the book even with those flaws.

        Reply
  • Great review. I read this story and really liked it also, and had read TGOM over a year ago.
    I liked that Jason came into his own more in this story and was quite resourceful, and I liked the protective side of Alex. I also thought the forest setting was different & scary.

    Reply
    • Hi rdafan. Yes, Jason’s growth was one of the things I liked most about this story. I also enjoyed that Alex got to see Jason from a totally different perspective out in the forest–the birdwatching, etc. I think he grew to appreciate him a lot more. I’m glad you enjoyed the book, too!

      Reply

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