Title: The Usual Apocalypse
Author: Christine Price
Cover Artist: N/A
Publisher: Carina Press
Buy Link: Buy Link The Usual Apocalypse
Genre: M/M paranormal romantic suspense/mystery
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
A guest review by Jenre
A superb paranormal romantic suspense/mystery which manages to combine romance with a thrilling mystery plot full of twists and turns which will keep you guessing right to the end.
Relationships can be tricky when people can’t lie to you, so Agent Matthew Whitman focuses his unusual powers on solving cases for the Society. When a fellow agent is found murdered, Matt is given a major assignment: find her killer. First he must find Brennan Mitchell, whose brother was a victim in the murdered agent’s last case.
For sixteen years Brennan thought his brother was dead. Now, a Society agent is confronting him with the impossible—his brother is alive. While Brennan is grateful to be reconnected with his brother, he doesn’t want to be pulled into any Society business. But the attraction between Matt and him is electric. After indulging in sensual encounters together, Brennan finds himself drawn into Matt’s investigation, and they become embroiled in something much larger than a run-of-the-mill murder case. Something darker and more dangerous than either man could have ever imagined.
The Usual Apocalypse is a sort of sequel to In Darkness Bound which I reviewed here. It follows an investigator for the shadowy institution known as the Society, Matthew, who was instrumental in rescuing the heroes from the previous book. This book begins with two important events for Matthew. Firstly, the death of a senior and well loved colleague leaves Matthew with a new case: He has to find her killer. In doing so he also uncovers things about his own past and those of some of his fellow agents which leads to complications that could endanger his own life. Secondly, Matthew finds the brother of Chris, one of the heroes from the last book, and reunites them. Brennan and Matthew begin a tentative relationship which threatens Matt’s secure workaholic lifestyle.
Those readers who haven’t read In Darkness Bound don’t strictly need to read it before this book. There are things that tie them together. For example, in looking for the reason why his colleague was murdered Matt has to examine the contents of the case she was working on which happens to be an investigation into Dr Dalhousie, the woman who incarcerated the heroes from the previous book. Also, whilst we don’t see Simon and Vance in this book, we do have some scenes between Brennan and Chris. In the end, I think my enjoyment of this book was helped by having read the previous book, but it still works as a stand-a-lone.
How well you like this book relies on the character of Matthew, because although we also get into Brennan’s head (and a couple of other characters) he is the main narrator for the story. I did like him, despite his flaws. He’s completely obsessed with his job, spending long hours in the office. Whilst this makes him damned good at what he does, it also means that he unconsciously pushes people away, making relationships difficult. At the beginning of the book, Matt’s ex returns from a year’s secondment to Paris and the pair are still smarting from the acrimonious break up. I thought it very clever that the author showed that both men were culpable in the break up, even as both deny fault. As well as being married to his job, Matthew is very good at using his job as a way of hiding away from things he doesn’t want to think about. This made him, at times, a little frustrating but it was telling how as his relationship develops with Brennan so his job becomes less of a refuge for him. Matt’s paranormal ability is that people are unable to lie to him, which made for some very amusing scenes, but you can also see that it’s caused him a lot of hurt over the years. As the book progresses, we learn more and more about Matt and his past making him quite fascinating. The secrets that are revealed were very surprising and rather unique, making Matt one of the most unusual characters I’ve come across for some time.
Brennan therefore rather fades a little when placed side by side with Matt. He’s got a magnetic personality and a paranormal ability to read minds and some telekinetic ability. He’s an all round good guy who wants to make things work with Matt, and a determination to stop Matt from working himself into the ground. This made him very likeable but without the layers of complexity which make up Matt’s character. That doesn’t mean to say he’s dull, he isn’t, and in fact his more straightforward character worked well with Matt. The scenes with them together were a great mix of fiery heat and lovely romantic moments and overall the romance was a big hit with me.
As well as marvellous characterisation from both leads (and various secondary characters) the highlight of the book was the twisty, turny mystery plot which kept me on my toes. This was a mix of methodical, nose to the grindstone, dull investigative work – often done by the sharp tongued but adorable, Tate, who is one of the best female characters I’ve seen in an m/m book recently – and all out action/explosions/fights/kidnappings/general seat of your pants stuff. This gave the pace of the book a great mix of forward thrust in the action scenes and slower patches where the romance and world building tended to be developed. The secretive world of the Society is also explored, and we learn much about its turbulent history, as well as how the current leader fought and won the position. This showed that the paranormal world building was carefully planned and integrated into the story. I was very impressed.
I’ve been trying to think of a niggle to tell you about the story, but to be honest, I can’t think of one. This alone should tell you how much I enjoyed this book!
I really feel like I’ve only touched the surface of what made this a five star read for me. I was captivated by the very first page, propelled through the story by great characters, a gripping story and a romance which had to be worked at. Those of you who love paranormal UF stories are in for a treat with this one and I highly recommend The Usual Apocalypse.