A BJ Review: Payback by John Inman

Rating:   2 stars out of 5

Payback cover

On the night of their fourth wedding anniversary, Tyler and Spence share a special evening before going out to take their dog for a walk in the park where a deadly gay bashing attack changes their life forever.

One reason I wanted to read this book was because it’s set in San Diego, where I lived for many years. Found myself in the mood to revisit, and the book didn’t disappoint in that respect. The trolley, the park, breweries, Coronado Bridge vistas and so many more little details had my imagination firmly planted back in my old stomping grounds.

The story begins with a steamy hot, yet also sweetly romantic scene between a couple so real I felt as if I could’ve known when I lived in the area. As Spence and Tyler celebrate their anniversary by exchanging specially made rings, their dog interrupts with a need to go out and they set off on a walk in the park. What comes next strikes with crushing, chest-constricting suddenness, shattering the almost idyllic happiness we’d just shared with them into fragmented ruins. It’s gut wrenching, heartrending, have-lots-of-tissues-handy reading for several chapters.

In the aftermath of the attack, Tyler is unconscious for a month and wakes to find himself alone in the world. Husband dead, dog missing, and apparently he has no family. After speaking with a police detective, Chris, and learning that they have no real leads on the attack, Tyler’s grief is rapidly overshadowed by intense anger that morphs into a desperate need for vengeance.

A short bout of agoraphobia, which he overcomes on his own in a matter of days, Tyler goes out and buys an illegal gun. His desire to own a gun didn’t surprise me much. Protection would be high on my list after such an attack. But why an illegal gun, unless he already had plans of how he was going to use it?

Up until then, the story was a tearjerker, but working for me. That shifted when Tyler gives in to his rage and goes out riding the trolley at night in bad parts of town carrying his illegal gun and ends up committing murder for which he feels no guilt. In fact, the murder seems to ease the rage inside him and make him feel better for a while. The only remorse comes some time later and is related to fear that his actions may have messed up the relationship between Chris, the detective assigned to his case, and himself.

Chris saw Tyler when he was brought in on the night of the attack, and reveals later that he fell in love from the first. As the story weaves on, Chris starts to creep me out. His sappiness and obsession with Tyler rubs me all wrong. Even more when clues began to make it clear to him that Tyler committed murder, and he chooses to ignore it. Later he goes further when he helps Tyler cover up the first murder in conjunction with another killing. Chris and Tyler actually discuss the cover up scheme while watching the man bleed to death.

Five months after the attack, and Chris has fallen for the grieving Tyler so deeply that he’s willing to go completely against his sworn duty. Five months and Tyler is so deeply in love with Chris that the detective has replaced Spence in Tyler’s thoughts and dreams.

The night of the cover up, Chris and Tyler make love for the first time–in the same bed that he and Spence had used to make sweet love the night of Spence’s death. They even use the same sexual position. Chris and Tyler declare their forever love, but it just didn’t work for me. It wasn’t hot or romantic. In fact, it broke my heart. Five short months and Spence, who the author made me love in that first scene, seems to be erased so completely.

On another note, I share my life with several dogs, so I usually enjoy doggie characters in my books. Franklin, Spence and Tyler’s dog, had the makings of a wonderful animal character initially. Unfortunately, it felt like he was a prop used to move things forward and then be forgotten when convenient. Near the end, he’d been repeatedly kicked with heavy boots while trying the help Tyler. He’s dripping urine on the floor, which makes me think possible kidney damage. Yet Tyler and Chris never take him to the vet to be checked out. My dog lover’s heart was left worried about him.

If some background on Chris and Tyler had been offered, it might have helped to understand them better. However, there’s only the barest hint of background on Tyler and next to none on Chris. This leaves me with many questions—one being why Chris fell for Tyler so hard and instantly when seeing him in the hospital.

The book’s rather reminiscent of a popular movie in which a woman goes vigilante after a similar attack scenario, except Tyler isn’t a vigilante. Rather it came across to me as if he just needed to take his anger out on someone. The idea that going out and looking for someone to hurt, even a bad person, in order to assuage rage over injustice done to you just wasn’t something I found ok.

Cover Artist: Maria Fanning
The cover perfectly captures the essence of this book including the setting (San Diego trolley instantly recognizable for me), the blood and violence, as well as the love. The couple walking with their dog in the park at the bottom, small, almost transparently dreamy as if they’re just a memory makes me tear up each time I look at it after having read the story.
Sales LInks:   Dreamspinner Press      All Romance (ARe)         Amazon       buy it here
Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Expected publication: February 2nd 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
edition languageEnglish
url http://johninmanauthor.com

By Scattered Thoughts

At over 50, I am ruled by my terriers, my gardens, and my projects. A knack for grubbing about in the woods, making mud pies, and tending to the injured worms, bugs, and occasional bird and turtle growing up eventually led me to working for the Parks. I was a park Naturalist for over 20 years, and observing Nature and her cycles still occupy my hours. From the arrival of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in the Spring to the first call of the Snow Geese heading south in the Fall, I am entranced by the seasons. For more about me see my bio on my blog.

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