Bodies of Work (An Avondale Story)

Title: Bodies of Work ( An Avondale Story )
Author: Etienne
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.

Review:

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.

20 comments

  • I completely agree with your review, and yet I am in that camp that finds these books comforting – even soothing – to the point where I eagerly bought the latest one, Sleuth LLC: Birds of a Feather, which is, despite the different protags, more of the same.

    Reply
    • Hi Brona, all I can say is enjoy…..cos thats what for me this genre is all about, simple pleasure reading! 🙂

      Reply
  • I think the emotional distance is one of the things I value about this writer. He is a comfort read for me, stressless and undemanding. But then, I am one of those people that most of you find really weird – I don’t do suspense, horror or thrillers and I read the last chapter before I get half-way through the rest of the book…

    Reply
    • OMG, I’d go crazy reading the last chapter at that point. I have to be really frustrated before I read the last chapter in the middle of reading.

      Reply
    • Hi Celeste, the last chapter anxiety I can understand actually and I have been driven to it when I’m really worried about a character, but not so much in this genre, which is why I like it.

      I am going to remember your phrase- ” I think the emotional distance is one of the things I value about this writer.” Yet again this reinforces keeping an open mind when reviewing. Thanks 🙂

      Reply
  • Raine

    I now understand your difficulties with this book. It’s all tell and no show — in other words no emotion. I couldn’t take that for 350 pages.

    I started to have that numb feeling you get when your neighbour brings out the third album of holiday photos.

    I know just what you mean.

    I understand Lady M’s point about police procedurals because I loved the old television show Dragnet, but I wouldn’t want to read the book. 🙂

    An excellent review that must have been difficult to write.

    Reply
    • Thank you Wave. Now that I have your empathy ……what shall I do about Drag and Drop? Cos it’s the same style and the same characters. 😕 Ok, it is half the length. 🙂

      Reply
  • Hi Raine
    Remember back in school, and you had to do book reports that were a required number of pages, and you couldn’t think of anything else to say, so you kept stretching out the report with adjectives and adverbs?….that how I felt reading this book. 😕
    Having said that, I still like the two main characters, I just felt like the book never got to the point,or climax of the book.
    Hope

    Reply
    • Oh when word count was so important……Yes, I felt the same way, this was a l..o..n..g book. Though, as you say Hope, they are likable characters.

      The funny thing is that I really enjoy meandering John Ford westerns with John Wayne where you get to know everyone and their second cousins very well before returning to the plot. 🙂

      Reply
  • Thanks, Raine, for this great review. I agree with every point you made, which makes it very surprising that this story has been on my comfort-reads pile since I found it online and I enjoy it every time I reread it. Weird.

    I agree with Feliz’s comment above about The Path to Forever and in that book the lack of emotion bothered me, but for some reason it doesn’t in Bodies of Work or several other stories by Etienne.

    The one thing that does bother me a bit in Bodies of Work is that George’s sex with the guy who wrote the letter that attests to George’s skill as a lover is described in some detail when the sex between George and Mike (who are after all the main couple in the story) is just glanced over. I don’t mean to say that I want all sex scenes to be spelled out in detail, but in this case it jars.
    Patricia

    Reply
    • Thanks Patricia, I agree with you that it was out of balance with what should have been important sexually. Me -I wanted the details of George and Mikes sex life! :blush:

      I can appreciate that this could be a comfort read, totally different genre but mine used to be Georgette Heyer. I have read those books so many times.

      Reply
  • Raine
    Everything you say in your review is true–and yet I love the George and Mike stories. I love the “everydayness” of the storytelling, the togetherness of the couple, the willingness on their part to open their lives and resources to others…you see where I’m going! I guess sometimes I’m not looking for a lot of emotion, maybe
    Anyway, I just finished the seocond book Drop and Drag and am looking forward to Break and Enter

    Reply
    • This is so interesting and so pleasing, cos I just knew even though it wasn’t for me, it would be pleasure for somebody else.

      I have a slight problem because I’m meant to be reviewing Drag and Drop and- not surprisingly I have a similar opinion of that one too. 😕 I think I’ll talk to Wave.

      Thanks for your insight EJR.

      Reply
  • Well, damn… I am eying this author’s work for some time and, after reading your review, I’M STILL ON THE FENCE. I enjoy realism in describing the police work, investigations, etc. – A LOT. But, I do need some inner life too. In fact, I always find the contrast of officer’s every day reality to his emotional, private life to be the most important, most captivating thing in a book such as this one. *sigh* Yup, still on the fence.

    Reply
    • Hi LadyM, give the extract a try and see if that helps.

      The characters are likeable and the plot interesting, but its not enough for me. If you get it I would love to know what you think.

      Reply
  • Hi Raine,
    I felt the same about this author’s writing style. I’m referring to another of his books, The Path to Forever. Like what you describe in your review, there were lots of realistic details, subplots and additional cast, but the book lacked emotionality. It’s a pity because the subjects this author takes on are usually fascinating, but his style just doesn’t agree with me.

    Reply
    • Wave gave me the link to your excellent review and I was so relieved to get some agreement on the problems I was having with the style. :flowers:

      As I mentioned I did wonder if it was a George’s voice linked style, but your review put that idea to bed.

      Clearly he is a popular writer, just not for us….

      Thanks Feliz

      Reply

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