Flesh & Blood (Flesh #2)

Title: Flesh & Blood (Flesh #2) (Flesh #2)
Author: Ethan Stone
Cover Artist: Justin James
Publisher: DSP Publications
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Contemporary M/M, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Novel (240 pages, word count unlisted)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

A guest review by Buda

Summary Review: The continuation of Cristian Flesh’s story finds him investigating a case that forces him to confront the many demons of his past. Cristian, the man of many rules, may be forced to break them all before he finds peace.

The Blurb:

Sequel to In the Flesh

Detective Cristian Flesh is about to find out that he can only run from his past for so long.

When a local man is attacked and the suspect is a hustler, Cristian knows there’s more to the case than meets the eye. His investigation will lead him into a maze of lies, deceit, and underage prostitution. But that’s only the beginning as people start disappearing and turning up dead. Cristian begins to realize that solving the case and stopping the murders won’t be enough. If he wants to make his new life with lawyer Colby Maddox work, he’ll need to face the demons of his past and put them to rest once and for all.

The Review:

As with any really good sequel, this one finds its genesis in the dangling threads of the previous work. Accordingly, Flesh & Blood should be read only after experiencing In the Flesh, my review of which can be found here.

Christian Flesh and his partner Lex Luther are sent to investigate the assault on Clayton Shaw, a very wealthy casino owner, who was badly beaten with his own cane. An interview with Shaw’s brother at the hospital is Cristian’s first clue that this case will take him places he doesn’t want to go. It seems Shaw’s young step-nephew, Austin, just eighteen, had told his parents he was gay. They encouraged Austin to talk to Clayton about how to be a gay man in this hetero-centric world. Unfortunately for Austin, Clayton Shaw was more interested in getting the young man into bed than being his mentor. Austin is immediately the prime suspect, something Cristian hopes is only temporary. When the Crime Scene lead tells Flesh and Luther she has matched prints on the weapon to an underage hustler, Flesh braces himself. “Right then, I knew the trail we were going down was most likely going to lead me straight into my past.”

Indeed it does. The first two thirds of the book see Flesh, Luther and FBI agent Drew Bradley trying to find enough evidence to take down a ring of pedophiles, but the entire novel is really about Flesh dealing with his past. We know pretty early who the bad guys are, though it takes a bit to find out who is the baddest of the bad, so Flesh & Blood isn’t a true mystery in that sense. It is very much a personal journey for Cristian. For the man with more than a dozen rules, who had kept his life neat and orderly and emotion-free until Colby came along, this trip down memory lane is painful. But will healing come with the pain? It is what he hopes and you’ll have to read to find out how close he comes.

The last third of the book finds Cristian confronting his family. Perhaps I’m just a sucker for the healing-old-wounds-with-family story line, but I found this to be the strongest part of the book. It isn’t necessarily an easy read, because we find out here a lot of truly horrific things about Cristian’s past. But meeting Cristian’s brother, Chucky, and seeing Colby at work in the courtroom were bonuses.

Cristian and Colby are settled in their relationship, so the romantic storyline, if you will, is almost non-existent. That is not to say Colby isn’t there to support Cris on his emotional journey, because he definitely is–whenever Cris will let him in. There is a lot–a lot–of sex in the book. It was almost overwhelming, but you will remember sex is the vehicle Cristian uses to deal with his emotional turmoil, so it makes sense. Those of you who have read Ethan Stone’s work before will know that the man writes scorching hot sex. That hasn’t changed here.

Several times we see Cristian act with his heart and not with his head, which was one of my “Did Not Work” items from In the Flesh. Well, even if those instances seem like something he shouldn’t be doing, they are definitely in keeping with his character. First, when he talks to Austin Shaw about the attack on his uncle, Cristian does it alone, in Austin’s bedroom (Austin’s parents are with Lex in the living room downstairs) and assures the kid he will be there to help him out. Definitely more heart than big head here, but it works because it is Cristian, and he’s feeling the abuse Austin suffered at the hands of his uncle. Second, while searching for the suspect in the Shaw beating, Cristian stumbles upon a young hustler at a truck stop. After talking to him for a bit, our good-hearted hero buys the kid a bus ticket home. There’s nothing out of character here (he throws a gruff I’m-a-bad-ass warning in along with the ticket), but it shows Cristian’s heart again. Earlier, when Lex is ribbing Cristian about letting his emotions get involved, Cristian says, “Yeah, I could be considered too stupid to live based on those actions. Sometimes I think with my heart and not my head.” I had to laugh. Touche, Ethan!

I did have a couple of niggles. The book seems occasionally dialogue-heavy and I felt, in a couple of the early scenes, as if I were being told, not shown.

Overall, Flesh & Blood was a good read. I admit to liking it better the second time through, but I think I might not have sufficiently cleansed my reading palate before starting it the first time. The characters and characterizations I enjoyed so much in In the Flesh are all here. Gabe, once again, has an important role, which may foreshadow events in his own spin-off, Blood & Tears, due out in July or August. The pacing of Flesh & Blood is slower than In the Flesh, so I didn’t feel like  I was hitting a Formula 1 track this time. If you are a fan of Ethan Stone’s work, In the Flesh specifically, I easily recommend reading Flesh & Blood.

Flesh Series


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37 comments

  • Hi Buda,
    Not that it took a lot of convincing, but I’ve bought the book and am currently reading it. So far, great. I LOVE Colby, and I have to disagree with you, I found the romantic storyline very well present, if not as in the fore as in In The Flesh. Part of Cristian’s growth is through his relationship with Colby, IMHO.
    Anyhow, your review did the book perfect justice.
    My only niggle is that between you and Wave, I don’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell at reviewing an Ethan Stone book anytime soon, do I? :grumble:
    Shame. Oh well, if I buy them it’s at least good for Ethan and will keep him at his desk… :whistle:

    Reply
  • I’ll have to think about buying this one. A lot, a lot of sex is one thing that puts me off. I like a good mystery, detective, police or suspense novel with a smattering of well written intimacy scenes that furthers the plot or characterisation. Sex every short chapter or second page usually has me turning pages quickly. “Off screen” or “fade to black” works better for me than endless sex scenes.

    Reply
    • Hi, MaDonna. Thanks for the comment! I completely share your feelings about sex scenes. There’s nothing wrong with a good fade to black. The Killian Kendall novel I reviewed last week is a great example of just how well that works. With Cristian Flesh, though, so much of how he sees himself as a man is tied to sex in one way or another. The sex he has with Colby is actually one of the ways in which he deals with all the intense emotions he feels as his case drags up his past again. I think probably every sex scene in the book gives us another clue into Cristian’s mind or helps the man reconcile his past with his present. If you choose to read this Flesh & Blood, I really hope you enjoy it. And if those scenes get to be too much, just fast forward through them. I’ve done it more than once. I promise not to tell on you. 😉

      Reply

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