Rating: 5 Stars out of 5
Joker, what a misnomer, but Jackson Webb’s friends were idiots. He’d joined Executioners almost three years earlier after the lead singer King caught him playing his guitar behind his garage. It broke up the monotony of his life, but once he got bored he’d move on to another distraction. He wasn’t nice. He sure as hell wasn’t friendly. He was what he was, his friends handled his attitude and standoffish nature just fine. At thirty-eight he was pretty sure he was too stuck in his way to change shit now.
Demetri “Dem” Urban was settling into a new life in the middle of nowhere. Okay, he was hiding from everywhere in a kitchen as far removed from his five-star kitchen back in New York. Gideon invited him to stay with him and his wife for awhile just until he could get everything back on track. He didn’t see it happening, but he had to admit the scenery wasn’t bad even if the man had the personality of a rabid, man-eating bear. Dem did like a challenge and that fit Joker Webb perfectly.
My first sighting of Joker was in Ghost (Executioners, #1), a deeply moving story that served as my first introduction to D.M. Dabney and that author’s interlocking series (Twirled World Ink, Brawlers and Executioners and hopefully more). Of course, I started with the most recent in the series which has turned out a fascinating, fortuitous move and I’m now moving backwards to the beginning series. And Joker aka Jackson Webb has appeared everywhere, a dark, violent presence, sometimes just a fleeting reference, sometimes more as a participant in a rescue or beatdown, but Joker has been an enigmatic thread running through three series who now when ready in Dabney’s mind, explodes into the cacophony that is his heartrending, beautiful and oh so memorable story.
Forewarning. If you’ve read Ghost, which is where I fell in love with Joker, you knew peeling back the edges of Joker’s armor would be like staring into the abyss. His past is stomach churning and even though the abuse and descriptions of what happened to him is handled “off stage” , there is no space for your mind and heart to run from his scars…physical, mental, emotional that are revealed here. They feel intense, all too real, and full of suffering of the unimaginable kind. For some of you, these are triggers and you should be aware of the impact they will have. Even if they aren’t triggers, prepared to have the abuse that Jackson suffered stay with you long after the story is over, which is as it should be I suppose.
Jackson is the town vigilante/Paladin and his friends’ worry now that Harper has found love, happiness and safety with Ghost. Jackson aka Joker is still on his mission to protect and deliver his own forms of justice to those thugs/bullies in town who have been under the protection of the old corrupt (and now dead) Sheriff. Given that mission it’s no surprise that he’s often found in one of the jail cells, with his friends called to bail him out. Outside of jail, his little dog Killer is his constant companion and yes, unacknowledged therapy dog. He’s violent, untouchable, moody, and broken. Yet everything about him shouts need. I wanted his story from the minute I met him in Ghost. And love him completely.
Then comes Dem, a man from a loving home who sets his eyes on Joker, knows that he and that broken man are somehow ‘meant’ for each other like his mom and dad. Dem is unique. Some see him as broken too. Dem is also a character you come across in Ghost, but here Dem becomes a complete person. I loved his parents, the background Dabney supplies for him and his reasons for being in this small town. He’s pretty easy to fall in love with himself. In the book, it all makes perfect sense as do the characters. Dabney’s characterizations and writing is so good, so perfect for the themes the author chose and the paths the story needs to take, that all I could do is be pulled in, totally absorbed by the drama and evolving relationships.
Dem’s pursuit of Joker shakes the man to his emotional and mental foundation. It’s everything he fears and has no reason to understand. Love. J.M. Dabney creates two of the most perfect, broken, believable characters and then takes us on their journey towards a love only they can find with each other, and a small dog named Killer. At times, your heart will break over the blackness and evil suffered, sometimes your breath will catch with hope as they get close at times a relationship only to see it crash under the weight of the past and reality, and finally your heart gets to soar with laughter and love at what the author has wrought out of darkness and pain.
How I love Joker (Executioners #2) by J.M. Dabney and the entire series. I highly recommend it and Ghost. Start with Ghost and then read Joker. And look for all my reviews of the Twirled World Ink, and Brawlers series by J.M. Dabney to come. I’ll be covering them all and the evolution of a universe.
Cover Design: Winterheart Design. I think the cover captures Joker perfectly.
Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK
Published August 29th 2017
setting Georgia (United States)