In the Ring (Dan Stagg Mystery #3)

Title: In the Ring (Dan Stagg Mystery #3)
Author: James Lear
Publisher: Cleis Press
Release Date: May 15, 2018
Genre(s): Contemporary, Erotic, Thriller
Page Count: 296 Pages
Reviewed by: ColinJ
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 3 stars out of 5


In this latest Dan Stagg novel, we find that Dan Stagg is dead . . . at least as far as the rest of the world is concerned.

In the Ring brings Dan Stagg to James Bond territory in an exciting story of concealed identities, beautiful double agents, corruption, power, and passion.

In terms of plot and character development, this is probably the weakest in the series so far. The lead character remains an anti-hero, but what is noticeable is that he seems less confident in his persona. He repeatedly questions his involvement in the acts he does and exhibits emotion towards the men he meets and then dismisses this to do what he has agreed to do. Whilst this has been a feature of the previous books, here it becomes more like a mantra. Sadly this internal dialogue is emotionless and doesn’t develop the story in any way.

The men he is involved with, be they good guys or bad, are transient in the hero’s life and are painted in various shades of grey. Even the more vulnerable and better-developed characters ultimately are shown to be something other than they appear. This is common in thriller novels, but usually, there is a more rounded backstory and the revelation surrounding such characters is more critical to the plot than is offered here. The apparent villain of the story is fleshed out reasonably well, but as the novel reaches the critical point in the plot he becomes more of a background character.

With regards to the plot, this is made clear quite early on and the reader then follows through the various exploits that the hero undertakes to achieve the somewhat nebulous goal. He questions on a number of occasions whether he has been set up and certainly there is the potential for tension throughout. However, such situations never seem to come to anything or are resolved by something that is off-scene.

The author’s style of writing is still there and the reader is held within the story however tenuously, but it is not a gripping read.

Perhaps it is the weakness of the story that draws attention to it, but the sex seems to happen on every other page. It is explicit and handled well. There doesn’t come a time when it becomes repetitious, but without a strong story to offset it, it does lose credibility. As noted, the hero dabbles with emotions as do the other characters but there are no ties at all in this story.

The story is largely scene-based and each of these has a steady and appropriate pace. There is always something going on, even if it is even more sex.

The book reaches its end and threads to the plot are tied up. The resolution to issues that required the hero’s involvement largely occur off-scene. He clearly had a part to play in the outcome to the tale, but he seems disengaged from it and so is the reader. The story doesn’t have a cliffhanger but is left open for another book.

Dan Stagg Mystery series

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Galley copy of In the Ring (Dan Stagg Mystery #3) provided by Cleis Press in exchange of an honest review.