Title & Link: Paul and Sam
Author: Justin South
Cover Artist: Scarlett Tie Designs (Zathyn Priest)
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary M/M Mystery
Rating: 3.75 stars
A Guest Review by Sammy
Review Summary: A good mystery story that gained momentum as the story unfolded.
Blurb: 19-years-old Paul lives a lonely, tormented existence. One night he meets Sam in extraordinary circumstances. He discovers Sam hero-worships him for saving his cousin’s life after a cowardly beach incident two years earlier.
Blinded by infatuation for his hero and devastated by the recent death of Tim, his twin brother, Sam passionately pleads to Paul to become his partner. While deciding, Paul is drawn into Tim’s psychic maze of cryptic messages. What is Tim’s influence? Does Tim empower Paul to identify the culprit who caused his cousin’s near-death? Can Paul decipher Tim’s cryptograms to solve the mystery surrounding his passing?
Follow Paul’s journey to love and happiness. Share the passion as two young men overcome insecurities and develop their innate strengths. Admire the kindness and generosity of Sam’s family as it assists others less fortunate. Deliberate the madness of revenge leading to the exposure of evil judicial corruption and a suspenseful court case.
Review: Rejected and scorned by his homophobic parents, Paul works a part-time dead end job, occasionally whoring himself out and always searching for a true friend, a companion, anyone who can ease the loneliness and pain of his squalid existence. After a particularly nasty off page rape occurs, Left alone on a darkened beach, Sam finds himself approached by an older man who takes him home to tend to his needs. There he is introduced to the Saunders Family and as fate would have it realizes that he is known to them.
Two years earlier, Paul was surfing and saw a young man, Mark, drowning in the surf. He rescued him and proceeded to resuscitate him until the medics arrived. In other words, Paul saved the young man’s life. It turns out that Mark is close to the Saunders. He is, in fact their son Sam’s best friend. But the near drowning not only left Mark visibly scarred due to the ramming he took from a stranger’s surf board, but emotionally crippled as well. The Saunders family view Paul as their hero and set about welcoming him into their home and into their lives. In a strange yet touching moment, Sam confesses to Paul that he has been “in love” with his hero for the last two years. Now, Sam asks Paul to stay, to live with him and his family and to give their feelings for each other a chance to grow.
However, Paul grapples with real feelings of inadequacy. He fears deep inside that he will never deserve the love this family and Sam, in particular, heaps upon him. Plus there is the unfinished business of the two men who left Sam there on the beach, beaten and raped. As one revelation after another comes to surface it is with dawning horror that Paul realizes these two men have left a string of rapes and possibly even a murder in their wake. Now it is up to Paul to help investigators get to the bottom of the mystery and he hopes that Sam will be strong enough to survive what they unearth.
The mystery elements in this novel were solid and compelling. The sheer number of repeating horrors performed by the two accused men were dealt with realistically and carefully. These were serial rapists who went after both closeted gay boys and or homeless gay youth who would never tell of the disgusting exploits and invasions perpetrated by the two criminals. Couple that with the realization that the two men had fathers who are well placed in the judicial system and the daunting task of bringing them to justice made for a fascinating and riveting story.
Paul and Sam was also a coming of age and first love novel. While I felt at times this was a bit overdone, I also realized that the Aussie vernacular that was used throughout the novel added to the overblown feeling the dialogue had at times It was occasionally hard for me to understand due to all the colloquialisms and slang terms. However, after reading the entire story, I could see how the impact would have been lessened had the language been forced or “americanized”. I did feel that the language and phrasing used by Paul and Sam sometimes made them seem “older” than they were chronologically. At times, the dialogue was a bit stiff and seemed overly flowery with a few too many descriptive words thrown in. One cannot deny, however, the sweet love these two boys had for each other and how that progressed and grew as the novel went on.
I believe the final element, the idea that Sam’s deceased twin brother, Tim, “spoke” to both Sam and Paul was the thing that left me rather confused. The idea that there was a “paranormal” feel to the conversations did not play well throughout the novel. I felt that having Tim project emotions and dialogue from beyond the grave muddied an already loaded plot line and simply lent an air of unbelievability to the story overall.
Paul and Sam is a good mystery novel with a heavy handed love story thrown in for good measure. While this kind of novel may not be for everyone, those who enjoy the Aussie vernacular and watching boys bond and grow as friends and lovers will enjoy author Justin South’s novel.