Title: Red Fish, Dead Fish (Fish Out of Water #2)
Author: Amy Lane
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: Aug 4, 2017
Page Count: 330
Reviewed by: CrabbyPatty
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
They must work together to stop a psychopath—and save each other.
Two months ago Jackson Rivers got shot while trying to save Ellery Cramer’s life. Not only is Jackson still suffering from his wounds, the triggerman remains at large—and the body count is mounting.
Jackson and Ellery have been trying to track down Tim Owens since Jackson got out of the hospital, but Owens’s time as a member of the department makes the DA reluctant to turn over any stones. When Owens starts going after people Jackson knows, Ellery’s instincts hit red alert. Hurt in a scuffle with drug-dealing squatters and trying damned hard not to grieve for a childhood spent in hell, Jackson is weak and vulnerable when Owens strikes.
Jackson gets away, but the fallout from the encounter might kill him. It’s not doing Ellery any favors either. When a police detective is abducted—and Jackson and Ellery hold the key to finding her—Ellery finds out exactly what he’s made of. He’s not the corporate shark who believes in winning at all costs; he’s the frightened lover trying to keep the man he cares for from self-destructing in his own valor.
Red Fish, Dead Fish is the second book in the series and I would suggest reading Fish Out of Water first to get more of Jackson’s background and the case that brought he and Ellery together, which continues here.
Ellery and Jackson are picking up the pieces of their lives after the events of the first book and are now living together in Ellery’s place while Jackson is recovering from his injuries and his townhouse is being fixed up after it got shot up to hell in the last book. Well, maybe “living together” isn’t quite accurate, because Jackson spends far too much time thinking about how he can walk away from Ellery with his three-legged cat Billy Bob in tow and not have to deal with all those feelings he has for Ellery but can’t quite share yet:
So many lovers—and only Ellery took him this way. Dorky, prissy, uptight Ellery, who could make Jackson lose his inhibitions. His mind. His heart.
The case Ellery and Jackson are working on is truly horrid with a psychopathic killer fixated on Jackson and killing people with “just a little bit of street dirt and some physical beauty. Tim Owens liked to take the “dirty pretty” ones and make them not so pretty anymore.” There are some scenes in this book that I found deeply disturbing; although at times, the murder plot line all seemed overly convoluted and it hard to keep track of exactly what was happening, and who was who.
About halfway through the book I finally understood how profoundly fucked up Jackson was by his childhood. At points in the book Jackson’s actions are unfathomable but as it hits home how damaged he is, it’s heartbreaking. As Ellery’s mother (who I always picture being played by the marvelous Christine Baranski) asks him “Are you worried that he’s too damaged to stay?” Amy Lane does a stellar job of enriching Ellery’s character (who I thought was underdeveloped in the first book) and showing just how deeply he feels about Jackson:
Ellery would marry him in a heartbeat, whether that meant he got shot tomorrow and Ellery had to live the last four months all over again, or whether that meant he got killed tomorrow and Ellery would cry for the rest of his life.
While the crazed killer plot is resolved by the end of the book, there are new (and confusing) ties to a nefarious government agency that will probably carry us into the next book in the Fish Out of Water series. By the end of Red Fish, Dead Fish it felt like the mystery / murder / suspense plot was the price I had to pay in order to read the “good stuff” – this tender relationship that is slowly unfolding between Ellery and Jackson. 4 stars.