Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
One idealistic newcomer with an untapped dominant streak.
One psychopathic killer.
Thrillers as a genre, especially with serial killers, are not something I usually go for, but I couldn’t resist the chance to review Robert Winter’s second book after being so impressed with his debut book, September.
Sooooo worth it.
Thomas Scarborough seemingly has it all. Stunning face, body to die for, successful and influential career doing what he loves, intelligence, and wealth. He’s an incredible lover, with a different man every week, but never with the same man twice. He tells himself that it’s enough, that casual sex is better than a relationship, and the most he hopes for is gaining a friend when the hook up is over. He’s been not just hurt, but utterly traumatized by events in his past, and doesn’t trust himself or anyone else to get close.
Zachary Hall has just landed his dream job in the U.S. Treasury, and moved from conservative, suburban Utah to Washington D.C. He’s been closeted his entire life, and is looking forward to recreating himself as an openly gay man enjoying a thriving gay community. He’s a little shy, a little inexperienced, but open hearted and enthusiastic. When he walked into the piano bar Mata Hari, he had that classic moment of locking eyes with the most handsome man he’s ever seen across the crowded room. It’s not his usual thing, but a few hours later he went home with Thomas, and connected with him not just sexually, but emotionally, in a more powerful way than he ever experienced before. Thomas felt it too, but still told Zach it was one and done.
And all through the night, the killer watched the apartment, and Zachary, and Thomas.
The killer was really creepy. In an over-the-top, brutally violent, Silence of the Lambs kind of way, with just a little bit of Gollum thrown in. He’s obsessed, resourceful, and ruthless, and just waiting for the right moment to reach out and take his treasure.
Both MCs really grew throughout the story – Thomas started out closed off and wary, but was eventually able to find the courage to not only confront, but defeat his demons. Zachary may have seemed innocent and naive, but found a surprising depth of strength and confidence in himself. Although I took a while to warm up to Thomas – the author did a great job of portraying him as an asshole who is eventually redeemed – I was rooting for Zachary from the start. The entire cast of secondary characters was engaging and moved the story forward. The settings, especially the piano bar with it’s regulars, created the perfect framework to really build the characters. Although there was really no mystery about the killer’s identity, I loved the suspense of wondering how and when he would strike. The juxtaposition of the killer’s stalking and escalating madness with the growing friendship and attraction between Thomas and Zachary was really skillfully written, and kept me biting my nails right up until the end. And of course, kudos to the author for choosing the ultimate in stalker songs as the title of the book!
The only reason I couldn’t give the book 5 stars is because the dialogue was frequently stilted, and during sex scenes was at times downright cringeworthy. I hope that will be something that improves in Mr. Winters future works, but regardless, he’s on my auto-buy list now. Highly recommended!
The cover art by Catt Ford is OK, I have to admit I had hoped for something a little more dramatic.
ebook, 240 pages
Expected publication: May 5th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1635334969 (ISBN13: 9781635334968)
settingWashington, D.C. (United States)