Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5
A year has passed since ex San Diego homicide detective Christopher Hayes’s brother committed suicide. Christopher is still recovering from the injuries he sustained when attacked by the main suspect during the investigation. The closing of the case saw more changes in Christopher’s life as he moved in with his lover, Montana police officer Doug Heavy Runner. But instead of the wonderful life Christopher thought he would be living, instead he finds himself deeply depressed by his isolated new location, surrounded by a small town’s blatant racism and homophobia. No one will hire him, he has made the seething racism his lover Doug Heavy Runner faces at work worse by adding homophobia to the mix, and his most recent jog through town ends when two gay-bashing teenagers hit him in the head with a rock.
Deputy Sheriff Doug Heavy Runner has never overcome the abusive relationship that traumatized and shattered him as a young cop. The memories, the lingering shame, and the fear he has never acknowledged have left him resigned to endure the discrimination he faces in Elkin. But he can’t stand it when Christopher becomes a target for that same hatred even as he is blind to the other issues Christopher faces in town.
A vacation in San Diego is cut short when the mutilated body of one of the boys who assaulted Christopher is found in Doug’s garage. Christopher and Doug return to Montana to find they must uncover a tangle of secrets, lies, and tragedy lurking beneath Elkin’s small-town façade. With their relationship at a crossroads, they’ll have to work together to catch the killer and maybe find a paradise of their own.
The Intersection of Purgatory and Paradise by A. J. Thomas returns the reader back to the hidebound small town in Montana, and the lingering aftermath of the original case that brought Christopher Hayes, Doug Heavy Runner, Elliot Belkamp and Ray Delgado together in a series of related, horrific cases. The story opens a year later with Christopher and Doug still dealing with the consequences of that case and their decision to move in together. And none of it has turned out as either had hoped it would.
Elkin, Montana is that typical small minded town that exists all over America. Mired in the past and the tight incestuous connections that small town living breeds, Elkin is the last place in the world to welcome a gay couple in their midst, especially one where one partner is a Native American and the other a gay ex SDPD detective. Add to that unpalatable combination (to the townspeople) the fact that Christopher’s pedophile brother committed suicide there, a horrific case whose aftermath is still causing reverberations throughout the community, and you have a recipe not only for rejection but outright shunning and hatred. A. J. Thomas brings this putrid little town alive in all its homophobic, racist, closed down ways. From glares from citizens who cross the street rather than walk near Christopher to the acts of hatred such as thrown rocks when Christopher runs, its feels nauseatingly believable and authentic in every way. Yes, there are a few individuals that are bright spots of acceptance and friendship, but they are few indeed.
Living in this town has not helped either Doug or Christopher come to grips with the horror of the case or their past history that’s getting in the way of their relationship. Doug won’t talk about his trauma from his time in Miami, and Christopher is still using running to race away from his issues with Doug, the town’s treatment of Doug and himself, and the blatant racism and homophobia that no one seems to want to do anything about. He’s deeply depressed, a condition he knows he’s prone to and it’s getting worse because he can’t get a job, no matter his outstanding credentials because of the town’s prejudice against him. This is a complicated, angst driven couple in trouble and each is hiding their fears about their situation and relationship from the other. Is this an explosive situation? Absolutely! And Thomas makes us feel every shiver of dread and stomach turning bit of angst as the characters proceed through the story.
Christopher and Doug have fallen from one emotional precipice only to end up on another. It’s painful, its sometimes hard to read, but the promise and endurance of Doug and Christopher as well as Christopher’s ability to work through to the truth, will keep you glued to this story and the rocky path in front of them both. You want these two to succeed but the chances of that happening is never clearly set. Even when they finally acknowledge some of the issues facing them, its clear that love may not be enough to keep them together unless drastic changes occur. Thomas understands relationship dynamics in the manner in which Doug and Christopher have to work through the past and present problems in order to have a future.
A highlight here is the trip they take to San Diego. I don’t want to spoil it but it brings Ray Delgado and Elliot Belkamp back into the picture (not that they ever left). This section was the icing on a cake, the bubbles in the champagne. And I loved it!
The Intersection of Purgatory and Paradise (love that title and the way its explained) also contains another series of horrific murders and suicides. That they come about due to the festering attitudes and influences of small town bigotry will surprise no one. However, the cases are gripping, the action quick and surprising, and the ending explosive. I wouldn’t expect anything less from this amazing series and author.
Thankfully, this is not the last of the series. On the author’s website, Thomas states that an as yet untitled fourth story is in the works. Be still my heart! I can’t wait.
Are you new to this series? Run and pick up the first story, A Casual Weekend Thing, and work your way through books 2 and 3. All are on my Must Have, Must Read list and will end up on my Best of lists this year. Love complicated, angst driven men? Love layers, twists and turns to your romance and stories. Already a fan of this series? Then be prepared to love this story. The Intersection of Purgatory and Paradise and the other books in the Least Likely Partnership series (listed below) are written for you. I highly recommend them all!
Cover artist Brook Albrecht. I really like this cover, its my favorite of the three so far.
ebook, 204 pages, available also in paperback
Expected publication: March 27th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
seriesLeast Likely Partnership #3
Books in the Least Likely Partnership Series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters, timeline and relationships:
- A Casual Weekend Thing (Least Likely Partnership, #1)
- Holding Out for a Fairy Tale (Least Likely Partnership, #2)
- The Intersection of Purgatory and Paradise (Least Likely Partnership, #3)
- Untitled Four Book coming…