Title: Quid Pro Quo
Author: Manna Francis
Cover Artist: Orit “Shin” Heifets
Publisher: Casperian Books
Buy Links: Buy Link Amazon; Publisher
Genre: Science Fiction, BDSM
Length: Novel (264 pages)
Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Lenalena
Review Summary: If you’re not hooked by Pancakes you can give up on this series. But I bet you’ll be hooked.
When he agrees to do a favor for his old friend Liz Carey in Corporate Fraud, Para-investigator Val Toreth is hoping for a simple case. After all, kidnapping and dismemberment are all in a day’s work for the Investigation and Interrogation Division. But in the European Administration, simplicity is often a dangerous illusion, and anyone who goes looking for trouble in the corporate world is certain to find more than they bargained for. Fraud, sabotage, espionage, blackmail, decades-long vendettas, and murder–the more powerful the corporations, the darker their secrets. Corporate insiders and innocent bystanders alike are all too easily caught up in the conflicts, but when suspects can hide behind money and power, what chance is there of any justice?
And on top of everything else, Toreth also has to deal with Keir Warrick. But that’s easy. That’s just sex.
The sequel to Mind Fuck, this second book in the Administration series contains the novella Quid Pro Quo, as well as five short stories set in the near future dystopia of New London and centered around professional investigator and interrogator Val Toreth, and technical genius turned corporate Keir Warrick.
The Administration Series
Somehow, my convo with Wave about our shared excitement on hearing the news that Manna Francis is currently writing the 8th book in The Administration series led to the decision that all Administration books needed to be reviewed and during this process I ended up with 4 books to review. She is going to do two. It had something to do with her travel schedule and I swear it seemed to make sense at the time…..
Not that it is a hardship to revisit these books. The only thing I could complain about here is that, unlike most series, The Administration gets better and better towards the end and that as much as I would love to skip ahead to book 6, which is my favorite, I had to start with book 2. If you’re looking for book 1, check out Wave’s review for Mind Fuck.
Mind Fuck wasn’t a 5 star read for me, personally. I loved the world building. Who can resist a good dystopia? Not me. This particular dystopia, with its totalitarian regime (The Administration) and its corporate counterpart of the Confederation of European Corporations, is absolutely chilling in all its futuristic cold-war-style bureaucracy.
Toreth had his days filled with Chevril’s offloaded prisoners, explaining to Justice representatives why it was possible to seriously interrogate prisoners or it was possible to guarantee they wouldn’t die, but it wasn’t possible to do both. Or rather that the guarantee wouldn’t make them any less dead if things went wrong, which was why he sure as hell wasn’t putting his name on it. The representatives listened and nodded, and went back to their superiors and returned the next day with a carefully reworded demand for exactly the same impossibilities.
I loved the characters. Toreth -is he or is he not a sociopath?- with his distinct lack of empathy for anyone but his admin assistant Sara. And Warrick in all his icy superiority, except in bed. But I didn’t feel the connection between the men in Mind Fuck. That may have something to do with my lack of enthusiasm for anything BDSM related, but I think it is more because there is no emotional connection between the men at that time. And yet, at the end this series ended up on, or near, the top of my all time favorite m/m reads. Despite the BDSM, yes.
But all that fangirling about ‘best series evah!’ starts with the story Pancakes. Whenever anybody starts this series and is making ‘I don’t get it, what’s the big deal, I’m not really liking this’ noises, we, the veterans, impart the following bit of sage advice: Keep reading until Pancakes. If Pancakes doesn’t change your mind, you can quit. Pancakes is halfway into this book 2, so yes, you’ll need to read a book and half before you get to this pivotal story, but chances are good you’ll thank us later. Because everything changes in Pancakes. It’s the story where ‘just fucking’ turns into something… into something Toreth can not allow himself to put into words. Something that slithers away whenever his mind threatens to think about it, because if he would acknowledge it he would have to run from Warrick and all that he stands for and that would be… inconvenient.
While the writing overall is superb, this is where it truly shines. This is where Manna shows you exactly what is going on, without ever explaining it to the reader, while Toreth stays willfully oblivious. With innocent little sentences like ‘More water and something to eat didn’t chase the queasy feeling away.’ for instance she shows a) how Toreth is so upset by what happened that he is having a thoroughly visceral -and physical- reaction and b) that he is doing his damnedest to not have a clue. This is where she hooks the readers and makes them wonder if Toreth is ever going to catch on. Warrick, of course, has his own special brand of willful obliviousness going on at the same time.
Quid Pro Quo starts out with the novella of the same name that is mostly focused on one of Toreth’s cases. It’s a solid story and gives you an even better idea of Toreth’s work on one hand and his intelligence and his skill in playing people and playing the system on the other, but if you are in a rush to get to Pancakes you can skip it and get back to it later when you’ve acquired the burning need to read everything Administration related right now. (Make sure you don’t skip Mind Fuck though, that one is essential to understand this world.)
Friday is a short scene where Warrick tries to explain Toreth to one of his oldest friends:
“Well… tall. Short blond hair. Blue eyes. Attractive.” Feeling the description was rather too physical, he added, “Intelligent.” Personality disordered.
Then follows Pancakes…. :happydance:
Surprises recounts several scenes in which the subtle notion that things are indeed changing between Warrick and Toreth gets reaffirmed. Toreth meeting new people is always entertaining, and so are Warrick’s reactions. In particular when Toreth meets Warrick’s ex-wife. Burn….
And then Family firmly puts the readers back in their place. Just in case we though we were heading for unicorns and rainbows, we get to cringe and squirm as Toreth goes home with Warrick for the holidays. And on top of that, things aren’t quite as they seem.
Mirror, Mirror ends the book with kinky sex. Like dessert.
Now, onto book 3! Which introduces us to the unforgettable Carnac. Oh boy….. Stay tuned!