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.
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.
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.