Author: James Buchanan
Cover Art: Winterheart Designs
Amazon Link: Laying Ghosts A Deputy Joe Novel
Genre: contemporary m/m, mystery
Length: Novel (123.000 words)
Rating: 4.75 out of 5 rating stars
A Guest Review by Feliz
Summary Review: This book, true to its title, had Joe and Kabe dealing with ghosts of their respective pasts and presents, bringing them closer together and deepening their relationship.
The Blurb: Joe and Kabe must lay the ghosts of the past and bring closure to a family scarred by loss to move forward in their life together.
Some families are haunted by tragedy. Some people are haunted by their pasts. Some men are haunted by who they are. Joe Peterson is haunted by all three. His parents’ return from their mission, combined with a family reunion, forces Joe’s kin to deal with his new life: out of the Mormon Church, out of the closet, and living with his lover Kabe. When a decades-old murder of a child lands on Joe’s desk, digging into it dredges up long buried truths and festering secrets about folks Joe thought he knew — including Kabe. Joe and Kabe must lay the ghosts of the past and bring closure to a family scarred by loss to move forward in their life together.
The Review: This book is the third in this author’s Deputy Joe series, featuring former LDS-member, Deputy Joe Peterson, and his lover, ex-con Kabe Varghese (the first two books were reviewed by Wave here (Hard Fall) and by me here (Spin Out). Though there are enough references to the previous stories that Laying Ghosts could be read as a standalone, I’d advise against that as without the background knowledge given in the first two books, the various conflicts Joe and Kabe have to face in here would lose some of their edge. (and besides, the first two books are definitely worth reading!)
Back to the matter at hand. When we last meet Joe in Spin Out, he’s restricted to desk duty in the aftermath of the professional troubles his relationship with an ex-con cast him into and because he’s still recovering from a car accident. Instead of solving crimes, his job is now entering cold cases into a database, and this is how he comes across the decades-old unsolved death of a little girl. A case that Joe quickly takes personal for a variety of reasons, and he starts to investigate it. Even though he suspects he might find out more than he ever wanted to know…
However, Joe’s family issues almost threaten to overwhelm his professional ones, his family’s tendency to keep things under wrap only adding to the problem. Half-revealed family secrets of the past combine with present tragedy to a heavy burden not only for Joe, but also for his siblings. Add to that the upcoming family reunion in honor of the return of Joe’s parents from their mission, where Joe’s new life–expelled from his church, in an openly gay relationship with a former criminal–will be scrutinized, judged and gossiped about by all of his large extended family, and Joe’s cross is almost heavier than he can bear. Thankfully he has Kabe by his side to help him deal with his relatives’ reactions and with sorrow old and new.
Meanwhile, Kabe has found a job with a forest fire fighter unit, a duty that keeps him and Joe apart for lengthy periods of time. All the more passionate are they when they are together, exploring what Joe’s only just starting to recognize is an informal D/s relationship. One night Joe gets carried away into doing something that actually might harm Kabe, scaring himself half to death. In addition to that, Joe learns something from Kabe’s past that makes him question the very nature of their relationship. However, true to form, once again it doesn’t occur to Joe to TALK to Kabe about his misgivings, he merely goes into avoid-and-protect-mode–until Kabe corners him. But instead of tearing them apart, working through the resulting conflict together makes them come out on the other side stronger than they ever were, as individuals and as a couple. It raised them to a new level of intimacy, and not only in regard to the sex.
From all three Deputy Joe books I liked this one best so far. There’s a wonderful balance of mystery and romance in this book; the case of the dead child is as integral to Joe’s character growth as the romantic relationship is. Speaking of which, Kabe also matures visibly over the course of this story ( though he thankfully keeps some of his daredevil traits–I’d have missed them!) Joe and Kabe make so much sense as a couple, they complement each other so well. To their relationship, D/s isn’t “only” a kink they share, it’s natural, integral, their respective roles deeply ingrained into their personalities, even though they are equals in everyday life. Actually, they can be equal partners for a big part thanks to the outlet they have in their erotic communion. I found this part incredibly well done, and at the same time, very educative on what D/s is supposed to be about.
What makes all three books in the series really outstanding for me is Joe’s narrative voice. Right from the beginning, it captivated me with its wry, factual tone, following through on that not only in the dialogue, but also in the narrative. As a non-native speaker and as someone who has never been to Utah I wouldn’t venture to judge the authenticity of Joe’s manner of speaking, but to me, his voice sounded genuine and realistic. I felt as if I was listening to him tell the story rather than reading it, and this made for a very intense reading experience.
My only complaint with this book was that it went on and on about Joe’s family tragedy, which had some parts of the story dragging a bit. I get that this was in the forefront of Joe’s mind, and since he’s the first person POV narrator, he’d think himself into circles sometimes, and it fit his personality, but still… those issues were few and far between though.
There’s another matter here, which is editing. Recently, the books I read tended to be largely free of typos or glaring grammar errors, but in this book, there were too many of either to be overlooked, which was really too bad.
To sum it up, I can only warmly recommend this newest addition to the Deputy Joe series, as well as the series as a whole. A winsome narrator, a wonderful romance (not to forget the seriously hot explicit scenes!), a vivid and scenic setting, realistic conflict, well-wrought secondary characters, and on top of all this, a suspenseful mystery in every book make this series a must-read.