Title: Torn and Frayed (A Gabriel Church #2)
Author: Rodd Clark
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Release Date: January 9th, 2016
Genre(s): Contemporary/ Mystery, Thriller & Suspense
Page Count: 272
Reviewed by: Lily G Blunt
Heat Level: 1 flame out of 5
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
“Conscience isn’t something all people are born with…”
Gabriel Church is a portrait in contrast. It would be easy to get lost in his pale-blue eyes, ache with the need to feel the strength of his masculine frame. He appears to be nothing but animal and instinct. The only people who know the full depth of that truth are dead, murdered, or two thousand miles away.
Gabe is a serial killer. For the first time in his life, he has more on his mind than his own survival. This time he is running from Seattle to protect the only person he thinks innocent in his laundry list of crime and murder: Christian Maxwell, his biographer and unexpected lover. Drawn to a place he never thought to return, Gabe finds new and different realities. Realities that insist he let go of his tragic past, those incredible perceptions of God, and his own divinity. He must open his eyes to what the love of a good man can do to heal a broken soul.
But when the killer is confronted by his own willingness to love and sacrifice, he is forced to ultimately ask the question: Just how far will he go to save a life . . . when all he’s ever done is take them?
Not having encountered the first book in the Gabriel Church series, Rubble and the Wreckage, before reading this story, I checked out the blurb and some of the reviews for #1 and formed an outline of the original plot. It seems the most important elements are recapped in Torn and Frayed.
Gabriel Church is a serial killer on the run. He’d been prepared to tell the world how and why he’d despatched so many victims over the years. Christian Maxwell is the biographer who unofficially interviewed him and planned to record his life story. They became friends then lovers, but their relationship faltered when Christian’s jealousy results in the death of Shea Baltimore at the hands of Gabriel.
Torn and Frayed continues the story with Gabriel on the run from Christian as well as the law. His thoughts continually return to the ex-lover he has left behind. He’s trying to resist the pull to return to the man he obviously misses.
Rodd Clark’s omniscient story-telling style provides the viewpoint of various characters, focusing mostly on Gabriel, Christian and Scott Kenn, the detective who tracks down serial killers. As a result, the reader discovers a few facts the characters themselves don’t know about and this provides hints for the future plot.
The narrative builds steadily to the mid-point until Gabriel decides to contact his ex-lover again. These well-written chapters provide the background to the story and the main characters, sometimes rather repetitively referring to the main events from Book 1, emphasizing that Gabriel is on the run and missing Christian. Internal monologues and backstory are interwoven with present day events as Gabriel is drawn back to Seattle.
The excitement builds when Detective Scott Kenn is allocated the case of Shea Baltimore and he closes in on the murder suspect. It’s a race against time to see who will get to Christian first. Will Gabriel make it back in time to rescue Christian from the inquisitive detective and will the two lovers go on the run together as Christian now hopes?
Despite being an unrepentant serial killer, Gabriel’s character is shown to be capable of love and compassion. The reader sympathises with his predicament and is drawn into willing him to succeed. You don’t want him to be caught or delayed, you want him to be reunited with his ex-lover. Rodd Clark has you rooting for these baddies. For both of them, because Christian is to some extent culpable for the murder of Shea, even though he didn’t directly kill her.
Gabriel is shown to be a cold yet shrewd man, and the reader is never quite sure what his intentions are or if he’ll act out of character. His mood swings swiftly to dark and brooding, making it feasible he could commit any crime. He believes he is doing God’s work by dispatching his victims and he justifies the murder of others in his attempt to protect his lover. His motives appear logical within the context of the story. To Christian, his reasoning seems calculated and his beliefs unassailable. He is reluctant to question Gabriel’s actions and, despite his love, is rightly wary of him.
Gabriel Church presents himself as a likeable character with plenty of magnetism. He can be charming, endearing and sexy as hell when need be. As his story unfolds, the reader feels sorry for his horrendous past, his abusive childhood, and his lonely adult life. We’re on his side. He is not portrayed as a crazy man as such. He is patient and clever, capable of planning ahead and solving the problems he encounters. He knows what to do in difficult situations and Christian trusts him to sort things out for the both of them.
The few sex scenes are skimmed over and not a main feature of the story. So although the book pivots on his love for Christian there’s not a lot of romance. You feel Gabriel’s desire and need to be with his lover and that he is capable of love and affection. It is the deeds he does for Christian that demonstrate he is more than this heartless serial killer. He is willing to sacrifice his life to protect his lover and save him from jail. He sees his fate as part of God’s will and his earlier visits to a priest hint at him questioning this vocation. In return, Christian loves Gabriel despite his knowledge of the killings and considers leaving his family, career and way of life to join Gabriel on the run. He knows the details of Gabriel’s previous crimes, but has chosen not to inform the police.
I enjoyed reading this story, particularly the suspense and exciting page-turning events as the book reaches its climax.
The story is not over yet. There are clues scattered along the way that will need to be dealt with in Book 3. So, while I wait I’m going back to read Book 1 and discover more about the serial killer and his biographer.