Title: The Little Death
Author: Andrea Speed
Cover artist: Dan Skinner/Cerberus Inc
Publisher: Dreamspinner press
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Genre: gay mystery with romantic elements
Length: Novella/128 pages
Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5
A guest review by Sirius
Summary: An excellent dark and gritty mystery, which made the most of the page space available. I loved the main character, but he is not an easy man to love. 🙂
Jake Falconer, a hard-boiled detective in Echo City, is struggling with his love of booze, a square ex (and a cop, no less) he can’t get over, and a murdered partner. In sashays Sloane, an homme fatal whose twin brother has gone missing. The search leads them to a sex club used for blackmailing the city’s most powerful, and soon Jake finds himself hip deep in sex and danger—it’s a good thing he’s no stranger to slogging through either
The Little Death invoked noir movies imagery for me right from the beginning when private dick Jake Falconer (yes, because of his last name too of course) starts narrating his story. Those of you who are reading the Infected series by this author would know not to expect a fluffy story. Heck, I have not read the Infected books (but plenty of spoilers about it, lol) and I knew not to expect warm fuzzies. The atmosphere in Echo City is described as very dark, and while Jake is not in a very happy mood for the most of the time, I did not see a reason to distrust his descriptions of matters unrelated to the mystery itself. He describes the city as “Everything in this city was dying, some of it slower than others, but in the end it was all bones and ashes.” We can see at the end that some changes for the better may come, but it is by no means a guarantee.
Jake, for my money, was an awesome character. As I said, he invoked all the associations with private detectives from old movies, but at the same time he makes fun of himself because of it and I liked that.
“I know it’s all a cliché; the hard-drinking detective with the run-down office and a lifetime of regrets and bad luck propping up his spine, but far be it from me to bust a cliché”.
Jake is a functioning alcoholic, who at first glance is your typical smartass detective, but the author slowly but surely shows us Jake’s layers, and of course the most we see it in is the relationship with his ex, policeman Kyle. Again, it may feel just as another cliché — the pairing of a private detective and a cop — but for me it made for an absorbing read. Maybe because when we see the guys interacting they have already broken up, but it is so obviously, painfully clear to anybody (or at least to me :)) that they still care for each other very much and that they both have plenty of regrets. And we actually hear it, but are not given an overdose of angst, in my opinion anyway. While Jake jumps of page almost right away, I do wish we could have learned more about Kyle, who I thought needed a little more fleshing out.
Having said this, the strong connection between Jake and Kyle, while important for the plot, is definitely a secondary storyline , with the mystery in the first row here. Again, let me repeat, this is a mystery first and foremost and I loved it that way. I really enjoyed the set up and resolution of the mystery. Even some of my most favorite authors can lack presenting a credible mystery and/or it is easy enough for me to figure out who the villain is when the story is not very long. I actually thought that the resolution here was quite clever. I thought I knew what was happening here and Jake suspects foul play quite early in the story, but I most certainly never suspected what the real set up was.
I also appreciated that Jake does a lot of investigation here; surprisingly I have read mystery stories where the main character does not do too much of actual investigating — apparently talking to witnesses is something not many authors think their character should do. I really valued the process here, even if, according to the laws of the genre, the detective does not figure it out until the story is close to the end. What I also appreciated is that I did not figure it out before the narrator did. It is a very frustrating feeling when you want to scream at the character and tell him, “look, here is the solution!” I enjoyed that the author did not tip her hand too early. But that was just me, and maybe you will figure it out much faster than I did.
Finally, I liked the pacing in this story as well, and I loved that the author did not cheat me out of couple great action scenes. I loved it.
The only reason this story gets 4.75 stars and not 5 is because I am wondering now whether the ending was too much of a surprise in a sense. I know that is in contradiction to what I said above, but sometimes too much of a surprise is not a good thing. You know how when the great mystery is done, you can look back and say “AHA” because there the clues are all there? I was not able to do that here; I am not sure I saw any foreshadowing as to the very final revelation, but I may be wrong. I cannot say more without spoilers, but I will be very interested to hear what those of you who read it think.
The possibility of series is left open, but honestly despite wanting to hear about Jake and Kyle again, I would much rather this one stayed a stand alone. Mostly because I do not want those two to go the road of Roan and his partner from Infected. We shall see. Obviously I am just expressing my wishes as a reader, which do not translate in dictating the writer what to write.