Title: Beneath This Mask (Enhanced #3)
Author: Victoria Sue
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: January 16, 2018
Genre(s): Paranormal, Police/FBI agency
Page Count: 206
Reviewed by: Kristin
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Gael Peterson has spent years hiding behind the enhanced abilities he wears like a mask, even though he is an important, confident member of the FBI’s exclusive H.E.R.O. team. The hurt and betrayal of his mom’s abandonment and his father’s fists are secrets buried deep beneath the ugly scars on his face, and he doesn’t trust Jake, his new regular human partner, with any of them. In a world where those with special abilities like Gael’s are regarded as freaks and monsters, it won’t be easy for him to rely on Jake to have his back, especially when the abilities of a vulnerable, enhanced, nonspeaking child make that child a murder suspect.
Tempers rise and loyalties are challenged, and when the serial killer targeting the enhanced finally sets his sights on Gael, not only will Gael have to trust Jake with his secrets, he might have to trust him to save his life.
Trigger warning – book does contain a graphic scene of torture and suggestion and description of sexual abuse – both past and present – which may be uncomfortable for some.
Not recommended as a stand-alone. Please read Five Minutes Longer and Who We Truly Are first in order for the characters and background to make sense.
Book one of this series really pulled me in – interesting premise, interesting set of characters. Book two added further background, but I thought it got bogged down in too much angst. Book three…book three felt like a bit of a re-hashing of book two (again, this is where reading the first two would be good).
Gael is paired with Jake, formerly ENu, a specialized police unit called in to subdue and take into custody any Enhanced felt to be a threat. Not infrequently, kids who just transformed are ENu’s primary objective, and the methods don’t always justify the means. Thus, Gael despises Jake on the basis of who he worked for.
Jake left ENu after working with the Enhanced H.E.R.O Unit in book two. He’s thrilled to be part of this new team and wants to work with Gael, except…Gael is giving him the cold shoulder and Jake soon finds himself reassigned to Vance. However, in trying to extend the olive branch, Jake finds that he and Gael have some mutual compatibility.
Except Gael doesn’t believe Jake finds him attractive. He’s scarred physically and mentally, and those mental scars run far deeper than the physical ones on his face. When an Enhanced child with FAS and autism is framed for a murder, Gael finds he is the only one who can communicate with the child. Meanwhile, Jake and Vance are focusing on the serial murders of Enhanced – but through a weird twist, the two cases overlap in a horrible way.
This story became somewhat dark and twisted. I’ll reiterate, if torture and sexual abuse cause you any kind of discomfort, you might want to take a pass on this. Personally, I found the “who done it” somewhat obvious and and unbelievable, so it was a matter of letting the plot play itself out. I will admit to being a bit taken aback by just how much child abuse was written into this one, even if it was references to the past.
I also didn’t like Gael’s pushing Jake away, Gael assuming Jake wouldn’t want what he wanted, when they hadn’t even talked about “it”, or really, talked about anything. What HUGE lack of trust. Yes, yes, Gael has trust issues thanks to his past, but the conflict/resolution just didn’t work for me.
So I have rather mixed thoughts on this latest installment – the concept of the Enhanced and the possibilities is intriguing. How it’s playing out, with nearly everyone dealing with issues of abandonment, neglect, lack of self-worth and poor self-esteem could quickly become tiresome.
Still, so far I’m interested enough to give the next installment a try.