Title & Link: Bermuda Heat (L.A. #5)
Author: PA Brown
Publisher: MLR Press
Buy Link: Buy Link Bermuda Heat (L.A. Series) (Kindle); Buy Link Bermuda Heat (Paperback)
Genre: Murder Mystery, Contemporary M/M
Length: Novel (73,000 words, 260 paperback pages)
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
A guest review by Buda
Summary Review: The blurb for this fifth installment in the LA Heat series carried a lot of promise for fans of David and Chris. Unfortunately, the book is a massive disappointment.
This review contains what might be considered spoilers.
A letter. A secret. A tragedy. David’s mother told him his father died when he was born. His mother lied.
David Eric Laine always believed his father had died in Vietnam before his birth. His mother remarried and he was adopted by his stepfather and grew up knowing Graham Laine as his only father. Forty years later, a letter arrives and David finds out everything he thought was a lie.His father, Joel Cameron, is alive and living in Bermuda where he came from back in 1968 to attend college. He met David’s mother, at the time a much more rebellious child of the turbulent sixties. Following David’s birth his mother fled back to the safety of her familiar, protected world and the lie was born. Rather than face her shame, David was told his father died a hero in Vietnam.
Now the lies unravel and the newly married Chris and David embark on a journey to discover the truth.
The reviews for the previous four books in the series can be found here.
LA Homicide detective David Eric Laine and computer genius Christopher Bellamere have been married just over a year at the time of this book. A package arrives for David. In it is a letter and two plane tickets. The letter is from his biological father, a man David had been told was dead. The letter explains that Joel “Joey” Cameron had finally found David after years of believing that his son was dead. The plane tickets are for David and Chris to use to meet David’s new family in Bermuda. Chris convinces David to use some of his unused vacation time and, after a brief phone call, during which they meet David’s charming half-sister Imani and his father Joel, they eventually set out on a journey of discovery. But first, David and Chris take a side trip to New Hampshire to confront David’s manipulative bitch of a mother, Barbara, his stepfather, Graham, and grandmother, Nanna.
Once the two men finally make it to Bermuda, they meet Joel, Imani and half-brothers Jay and Baker. The Cameron boys are less than pleased to meet their bastard brother, the fag from the States. It is immediately clear, too, that Jay is in some sort of trouble, though our two heroes seem to miss that. While she doesn’t fully understand David’s sexuality, Imani welcomes him and Chris into the family and is probably the one redeeming character in the book.
Shortly after David and Joel’s reunion, things go from awkward to horrible. I don’t think it’s a secret at this point (but I’ve issued a Spoiler Warning), so I will reveal that Joel is murdered and David is arrested for it. Chris is left to deal with the situation in a foreign country with a wholly different legal system and what seems to be a rather common dislike of, and in some cases open contempt for, gay men. Chris is able to spring his husband from jail, but shortly after, David is arrested again. This time for the murder of his brother, Jay. Of course, this means Chris has to find the truth, which he does with remarkable and eye roll-inducing ease. The baddie is telegraphed from his first appearance (which is an automatic loss of one review star), so nothing really surprising happens.
One usually doesn’t read this far into a series without developing an attachment or fondness for the characters. It is no different for me here. I genuinely like David and Chris and enjoy their interplay. Sadly, even that couldn’t rescue this book for me. There are so many problems, issues and niggles that I could probably write 73,000 words detailing them. Instead, I will highlight a few and leave the rest for you to find if you’re brave enough to try the book.
Sprinkled throughout the previous books were references to David’s mother Barbara’s lack of acceptance of David’s sexuality and her refusal to attend his and Chris’s wedding. In LA Mischief, David thinks of his “rigid, New England born and bred mother and her Puritan sensibilities and morals.” Graham was more accepting of David, but allowed Barbara to take the lead in their relationship with their son. I mention this because never in the previous books did I ever get the impression that David came from a wealthy, class-conscious family, only that they were extremely uptight. In the New Hampshire scenes, however, this new information is taken to the reader like a lead pipe to the head, repeatedly and with no subtlety. I kept wondering if this was the same David Laine from LA Heat. The man who restored his old car as he could afford it, the man who was so incredibly uncomfortable with Chris’s nearly limitless funds. The two or three (depending on how you count them) days David and Chris spend in the Laine home are awkward, which is the intention, but the dialog is so stilted it borders on the ridiculous. During the confrontation scene, Barbara describes his biological father to David:
If you must know, I made a mistake when I was young and foolish and…and impetuous. I let my head be turned by a charming, but empty, man.”
“Where’d you meet this ’empty man’? At university? You’re a Willerton, of course you went. Some East Coast debutante college no less, I’m sure.” He glanced at his stepfather, then looked away. He didn’t want to see the distress in his eyes.
Also a common theme with Chris is his fear and resentment of David’s work. Seven years into their relationship, Chris still gives guilt trips when David comes home having forgotten to duck a swinging fist. Even after David admits he’s been contemplating retiring from the force, Chris continues to whine about the danger David faces. Chris knew who and what David was when he signed up for their relationship. To spend the next seven years whining and sniping about how “I’m tired of hearing ‘it’s my job'” is ridiculous.
Numerous strange leaps occur, too. At one point, David can apparently tell–totally out of nowhere–that Joel is upset about something that happened hours before, despite the fact that neither man has mentioned it. Later, David says, “I used to fantasize that you were alive–what adopted kid doesn’t, right? That it was all an accident that I was left alone.” Alone? Really? With his mother, stepfather and grandmother. After he’s been arrested, David thinks, “Most homicides are committed by family members. That was a cold, hard fact every cop knew.” Except…according to the 2009 FBI Uniform Crime Report summarized at Top5ofanything.com:
Out of 13,636 murders studied in the United States, 30.2% of the victims were murdered by persons known to them (4,119 victims), 13.6% were murdered by family members (1,855 victims), 12.3% were murdered by strangers (1,676 victims) and 43.9% of the relationships were unknown (investigators were not able to establish any relationship).
PA Brown’s introduction to the book tells that she was living on Bermuda when Hurricane Florence brushed by in 2006. While David and Chris are on the islands, a hurricane comes along, too. But aside from lots of descriptors of sheeting rain and driving winds, it didn’t really stand out as an experience I felt. And I still have no idea why Trev was considered such a bastard in LA Bytes.
Aside from all the above, the biggest problem I had with this book is that, had I not been reading it for this review, I would have quit on it. In fact, the first couple of chapters detailing David’s days on the job were so awkwardly structured (the getaway car, wanting a warrant but leaving it unsecured were my first niggles) and pointless that I nearly stopped reading then. I did take a break when our heroes still had not made it to Bermuda at 18%. A week or so later, when I finally picked up the book again, my impatience and frustration came immediately back. It is not until 24% that David and Chris land on Bermuda.
As much as I really wanted to like it, Bermuda Heat was a colossal disappointment for me. So much so that it will most likely be the last LA series book I read. If you’re such a fan of David and Chris that you must know what happens in Bermuda, then this may be for you. Otherwise, I won’t recommend it.