Title: Spin Out (Deputy Joe,#2)
Author: James Buchanan
Publisher: MLR Press
Cover Artist: Winterheart Design
Buy Link: Buy Link Spin Out (Hard Fall)
Genre: Contemporary m/m, mystery
Length: Novel (284 pages, 94 k words)
Rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars
A Guest Review by Feliz
Summary review: This is a solid murder mystery and a conflicted yet super-hot romance between ex-con Kabe and Deputy Joe, told in Joe’s most appealing, distinctive narrative voice.
The Blurb: Right guy. Wrong time. Deputy Joe Peterson understood the risks when he got involved with ex-con Kabe Varghese. He didn’t, however, see fit to warn Kabe. Now, in the middle of searching for the killer of a local boy, he has to contend with his career and his relationship spinning out of control. Solving the case may be easier than repairing broken trust.
Deputy Joe Series
Spin Out is the sequel to Hard Fall, reviewed by Wave here. If you haven’t read Hard Fall yet, I’d recommend you do so first before you pick up Spin Out. For one, the fondations to the main conflict in Spin Out were laid in Hard Fall; with the knowledge of the former it’s certainly easier to follow. Secondly, not knowing Hard Fall a reader might miss out on some of the finer nuances in the relationship between Kabe and Joe as well as in their respective relationships with the secondary cast.
Spin Out starts several weeks after the end of Hard Fall. Kabe and Joe are still in the tentative phase of their relationship, the recent events of Joe’s falling out with the Mormon community still raw in his memory even though he’s coming to terms with it — it got him Kabe, after all, a man Joe intends to keep for good.
The Utah equivalent of Internal Affairs, the Disciplinary Review Council, calls both of them in for a hearing about their relationship, or rather about the fact that Joe as a deputy sheriff has an affair with a convict on probation. Kabe worries, but Joe reassures him appearing in front of the Counsel is no big deal. Joe not only plays it down for Kabe — he deceives himself about the possible impact and consequences of this hearing – which might be very well result in Joe losing his job. It’s only when Joe has to witness Kabe being put through the mill by the board that Joe realizes what he’s done — that by leaving Kabe in the dark, Joe has set him up for public humiliation. Still, Joe is surprised by Kabe’s reaction afterward. Convinced he has acted in good faith, only intending to keep Kabe from unnecessary worries, Joe can’t understand why Kabe is so thoroughly pissed at him that he won’t even listen to apologies. It takes Joe a while — and a figurative knock on the head from his old friend Devon — to see his mistake. But once he realizes how much he must have hurt Kabe by shutting him out, how overbearing he was, he decides to do everything he possibly can to reconciliate with Kabe. It’s just his bad luck Kabe happens to see him leave Dev’s hotel room at the crack of dawn. They only had a night of pep talk, but Kabe readily jumps to the wrong conclusions. The relationship Joe took so much upon him for seems damaged almost beyond repair. It will take serious efforts on both Joe’s and Kabe’s sides — and a gentle nudge from their mutual friends — to straighten out things between them.
Interwoven with the goings-on and problems of Joe’s and Kabe’s relationship is the case of a youngster found dead in the woods that Joe has to solve. Investigating the young man’s dead Joe stirs a hornet’s nest of lies, fear induced silences and false loyalties, revealing ugly truths that some of the good citizens of Panguitch, Utah would’ve rather kept hidden.
It’s Joe’s voice which tells this story, and what a voice that is — I already loved it in Hard Fall, and it kept ringing true through this book as well. Of course, since I never talked to an actual Utah native, others be better judges of its authenticity, but Joe’s drawl, his speech pattern and the sayings and mannerisms strewn into the narrative made me feel as if I was actually listening to him. He came alive on the page and in my mind. Kabe was a little harder to get to, since I only saw him through Joe’s eyes, but I could relate to his reactions easily enough. By the end Kabe had grown on me just as much as Joe had.
Another plus: Other than in Hard Fall, the rock-climbing slang was kept to a bearable level. 😉
There wasn’t overly much on-page sex in this book, the more to make every single scene count. Joe and Kabe have some kind of D/s relationship, although Joe wouldn’t call it that way. He doesn’t even seem to be fully aware that others might put this label on Kabe and him. It’s just something they both are and both need from each other, and yet it’s also part of their relationship issue. Joe needs to show Kabe that he sees him as his equal even though he might like to take the lead in bed, and Kabe has to overcome his own insecurities — not as a sexually submissive man, but as an ex-con who tries to build a relationship with a law enforcer — before he can trust Joe enough to give him his full submission.
As for the secondary cast, they were just as skillfully drawn as the heroes. Dev, Joe’s friend and former partner on the hunt for pretty boys; Nadia, the motherly kickass BFF to both of them; Myron Simple, Joe’s boss, even the youngsters Joe questions in his murder case, they were all persons in their own rights.The actual murder mystery felt realistic down to the point that fortunate coincidences played a major role in solving it, together with Joe’s investigative achievements.
My only niggle with this book was the fact that it dragged a bit in the middle part. Kabe’s anger, understandable as it was, turned him into a bit of a sorehead which, together with Joe’s thickheadedness, brought the story precariously close to “The Big Misunderstanding” — a pitfall which was gloriously avoided only a few pages later, fortunately.
This was a beautiful, masterfully written love story and a gripping mystery I can only warmly recommend.