Title: Bodies of Work ( An Avondale Story )
Cover Artist: Reece Dante
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Buy Link Bodies of Work
Genre: Contemporary M/M, Mystery/Suspense
Length: 350 pges
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 rating stars
Guest Review by Raine
Summary Review: Long, very detailed picture of a popular Police lieutenant’s work and private life.
Blurb: George Martin and Mike Foster have been best friends since childhood, but recent events have brought them even closer together: Mike has moved into George’s house now that George’s unfaithful boyfriend has been kicked out. It puts Mike in a pinch, because he’s always loved George—maybe more than a best friend should.
George doesn’t suspect Mike’s feelings, being wrapped up in his job as the youngest lieutenant in the Jacksonville sheriff’s office and investigating a series of murders. But it will all come to a head when George is stalked by a psycho and Mike steps in front of a bullet meant for George. George then realizes there’s much more to their relationship than he suspected.
In the Author’s Note, it is explained that the story’s in a Florida setting:
Avondale is a very real neighborhood in Jacksonville, situated between Roosevelt Boulevard ( US17 ) and the St. Johns River. It is bounded on the northeast by McDuff Avenue, which separates it from the neighborhood known as Riverside, and on the southwest by Fishweir Creek.
That level of information is the baseline for this book. George is an openly gay police lieutenant, and his work and cases are the framework for the plot and the concerns of finding a serial murderer are embedded into his every day life. The style of policing described is absolutely the polar opposite to seedy noire. It is all crisp realism—professional team management, day to day details, office politics and climbing the career ladder.
George is popular and successful, he even has a letter attesting to his skill as a lover! We learn a lot about the daily lives and routines of George and his best friend Mike. They eat out a lot and the restaurants they go to are real, so there is lots of detail: every meal eaten, bottle of wine drunk, which eventually carries on to to real estate bought, home improvement—done and dusted. We end up knowing a lot about these guys…but actually we don’t. This was my big problem with this book. What we have here is a lot of reality and a lot of surface detail, which was engaging to a point, but it just went on for too long. Eventually the repeated details did not add to the experience. I started to have that numb feeling you get when your neighbour brings out the third album of holiday photos.
Predominantly a first person narrative, George does not readily share his emotions, not even on being told his best friend loves him. When Mike is injured there is no real expression of fear. Later, there is no mention of any emotional differences in the change of being fuck buddies from the age of thirteen, to being committed lovers in a relationship. There are no big emotions being shared here. There is no inner life, and, sorry, but I need inner life.
My personal reading preference is for intensity of experience, and in an evolved writing style. I like a heightened sensibility, a world well lost for love or fantasy set within social realism. Consequently I found it hard to connect with this book’s style. It is cleanly written, almost like a report with no mood-enhancing adjectives. The complicated plot, sub-plots and many secondary characters are well organised and often interesting.
However, even when there was an emotional situation being dealt with, I found George and Mike’s reactions to it jarred with me. The important sub-plot concerning a stalker, which triggers the change in their relationship, felt uncomfortable. The series of incidents in the steam room, involving various combinations of toweled bodies, seemed off key; the genital shaving was odd in this context, badly judged and was almost baiting the stalker. The descriptions of sex are of the, ‘we did it’ variety, a robust number of incident counts but again no adjectives of taste, touch or smell:
“Four orgasms later—two each—we were both feeling very mellow.”
Now, not everyone wants all the gritty detail that I enjoy so that is a matter of individual opinion.
The book was very long and contained a lot that added very little to the plot or general atmosphere. George and Mike befriend twin teenagers Zeke and Zeb, and other than showing how nice the guys are, I never did understand the twins significance. As you can tell I struggled with this book. I did wonder if this flat writing style was meant to be George’s particular voice; representative of his personality, which while still not totally appealing to me personally would be valid. However when I checked out other works, I found this was not the case. So I quite enjoyed George and Mike as casually met acquaintances, and all the details of their lives were interesting, but I felt no emotional attachment to them.
There are five star reviews on Amazon for Bodies of Work, so its all back to different preferences. There are clearly people who enjoy Etienne’s style of writing, but this time it wasn’t for me.