August Shaw works cold cases in a state police office just outside of Sydney. He works alone and that’s the way he wants it. August likes the idea of bringing closure to families that have lost someone. Only, there’s one case he hasn’t been able to crack: a string of murders of gay men going back nearly a decade. The deaths have mostly been ruled suicides, but they have too much in common for that to be the case, but August’s superiors refuse to see it and think he’s too emotionally involved. That might be true, but it doesn’t mean he’s wrong. When Constable Jacob Porter calls him from the small town of Tallowwood with a case that might be related, it could be just the break that August needs, and Jacob might just be the man to bring August out of his self-imposed exile from humanity.
“Tallowwood” is quite a delicious little mystery, with an equally charming bit of romance along the way. The mystery is definitely a perplexing one. In some way, there’s a mystery within a mystery. August will probably have you convinced within the first few chapters that the supposed suicides are connected, and therefore the work of a serial killer, so the question becomes, why is he having such a hard time convincing everyone else? The answer to that becomes clearer as the culprit ultimately comes into focus. While you might have suspicions about who the murderer is, it doesn’t really become obvious until it does to our two heroes.
The romance is low key and feels entirely natural. The mutual attraction between Andrew and Jacob is undeniable from the beginning. They’re both very conscious of their own feelings, but for quite understandable reasons are reluctant to act on them. This is definitely a slow-burn romance that evolves over the course of the book. Both of the men are quite likable, although it may take a while to warm up to August.
The peripheral characters are also quite interesting. This is one of those stories where you won’t know who to trust by the end, as a few of the good guys turn out to be baddies. The Big Dramatic Conclusion scene is a little bit cliché, and you will see it coming a few chapters out, but while it might be predictable it’s still very well done.
In addition to the good mystery and well developed characters, there’s also a health dose of humor that makes what could otherwise be a rather grim story more readable. The comedy is quite natural and generally comes out of the interaction between August and Jacob as they dance around their feelings.
“Tallowwood” is available from Amazon.