Review of Inferno by Scarlett Blackwell

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Rating: 2.5 to 4.5 stars

Moonlight Cove Detective Zack Stewart and his partner Claire Keaton get the call for a murder at a downtown gay nightclub Inferno.  When they arrive they find a young gay man strangled in the alley in back of the club.  The victim reeked of recent sex and was strangled with his own underwear.  Inside Inferno Zack and his partner find plenty of people who knew the victim, had had sex with him including the club owner, Dante Jardin, their chief suspect.

Zack Stewart is in the closet at work but Dante Jardin ticks all his buttons and then some.  From the beauty mark on his face to the unusual color of his eyes, Dante Jardin is Zack Stewart’s hottest dream and worst nightmare all rolled into one.  Zack is convinced that Dante is the murderer but isn’t sure if that is because of the evidence or because he is  fighting his own feelings towards the man.  Then another murder occurs at the club, a victim killed in the same manner  who also was connected to the first victim.  A serial killer is on the loose and all the evidence points to Dante Jardin or does it?  What happens when a detective’s increasing obsession with a murder suspect starts to cloud his judgement?  As the killer strikes again, Stewart must decide which will rule out, obsession or justice.

Inferno by Scarlett Blackwell is 95 percent of a great book.  Here is a recommendation I have never made before.  Stop reading about 10 pages before the ending.  Just put the thing down.  Make up your own ending, or don’t. As long as you don’t finish the book you will have a terrific portrait of a man self destructing over a sexual obsession, the downward spiral of his intellectual and emotional life,  and the catastrophic  consequences that occur.  From our first introduction to Zack Stewart, we get a feeling of a man already in trouble emotionally and physcially.  Zack is exhausted by the hours of his job, worn out and lonely due to his closeted state.  He is not sleeping or eating well.  Then he is called out onto a case that will have ramifications on his job, his friendship with his partner and most important his self image.  The catalyst for his upheaval is Dante Jardin, owner of the notorious gay club Inferno.

Dante Jardin has the face of an angel and the body and attitude of the devil himself.  All sexual heat and emotional ice locked together in a package that pulls all of Zack’s strings so tight they vibrate.  His attitude towards the “dead whore” offends Zack and his partner while Dante’s sexuality turns Zack on to the point of physical arousal while questioning him.  From that moment on, Zack finds himself  growing increasingly obsessed over the club owner.  He masturbates with Dante in his thoughts even in the squad car.  Zack starts returning daily to the club because he can’t stay away from the man even as he insults him, committing borderline harassment and assault while shoving Dante against the wall.  Zack tries fighting his emotions, aware that he is falling into a trap that he might not be able to get out of.  We are there every step of the way as Zack falls down the rabbit hole, we are there as Zack makes one bad judgement call after another, helpless to stop himself.  Blackwell does an outstanding job of bringing us into the mind of a man in the throes of an obsession.  We hear his thoughts as his emotions spiral out of control even as intellectually he knows it will cost him everything he has worked so work to obtain, fifteen years on the force, the respect and friendship of his partner, even his own self respect.  All gone because he cannot turn away from a man he believes to be a murderer and who now owns him completely in every way.

Another amazing thing is that I didn’t even like Zack Stewart very much.  He whines (and knows it).  He throws his co workers under the bus, expects them to cover up his screw ups to the point of losing their own jobs, he throws an investigation and still we watch all the events happen, much like watching a train wreck.   I was never emotionally invested in the character and yet I still couldn’t put the book down.  Blackwell doesn’t make Dante Jardin someone you would relate to either.  She gives us some backstory on Dante that should make him and his demeanor more understandable but he never really came together for me outside of their sex scenes, which were very hot by the way.  And still, Blackwell keeps us turning the pages, wanting to know what will happen next.  The easiest character to understand?  That would be Claire Keaton, a “by the book” cop who considers Zack a friend and who instinctually realizes he is in trouble and that Dante is the key.

It all works, from the descriptions of the poor guys getting murdered to the club scene with the anonymous sex in the back room.  All visually rich in detail, smokey with the  smell of sex and weed, the clinking of glasses and the rustle of clothing, Blackwell’s descriptions brings us into the crime scene, into the midst of the investigation and the group of people circling around the periphery.  This is a 5 star book right up until it isn’t. And that brings us to the last 15 to 10 pages.  Were these written by a doppleganger?  Did some nefarious ghostwriter with fluff on the brain sneak in and complete this novel of grime, death and sexual obsession with a goal of inserting a measure of Hello Kitty and rainbowed unicorns?  I am still shaking my head over it.  It just makes no sense at all.  It takes everything, and I do mean everything, that went before and plants a big “Nuh uh!” over top of it, canceling out everything that felt gritty and real in order to throw us a fake HEA and “everything’s alright, boo boo cakes” epilogue.  Am I frustrated and irritated beyond belief over this wasteful treatment of talented writing, even by the author herself?  You betcha I am. Two stars for the ending, 5 stars for sexual obsession made real.  You figure out the rating.  I am out of here, still shaking my head in disgust.

Cover:  Art by Reese Dante who had done a great job with the coloring and models to achieve the idea of sex, heat, all in flames.

Great Saturday, Marvelous Sunday, Fall is Here! The Week Ahead in Reviews

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I had a great day yesterday.  Friends came over, a fellow blogger, and an author, both wonderful.  We had a time of it, discussing books, movies, Spartacus, you name it while drinking wine, gobbling up bread, cheese and crackers while the sun shown down!  Does it get any better than that?  I don’t think so.  Kirby loves visitors and was so excited to see them both, going from one to the other before roaming around looking for squirrels and bugs and things.  Winston and Willow are just happy to sit in the chair with me and chill.  And today?  Just beautiful, cool, sunny, the perfect football weather as they say.  Daughter and SIL off to the Redskins game and RGIII’s first home game.  I know, I know.  I swore off the Redskins but habits are hard to break!  So consider this a work in progress.

Three more bushes to go into the garden, Firelight Spirea.  The foliage changes color three times during the year.  In the spring, the leaves are a orange green changing to greenish yellow in the summer and then turning a lovely deep red in the fall, all that and beautiful pink blossoms that beacon to bees and butterflies for weeks while they are in bloom.  Sigh!  I love gardening and the discovery of new plants.  The windows are open, letting in the cool breezes to refresh the house air.  A ruby throated hummer just buzzed the window letting me know the feeders still need filling as there are still migrants making their way south and they shouldn’t be forgotten.

I am just finishing up the first in the Wolf’s Own series by Carole Cummings and loving it.  Look for the review at the end of the week.  I am starting the week off with a bang and a great book by Amy Lane.  Don’t miss out on this one.  As always so many books, so little time, but I am working on it.  Just a reminder, the first week in October is JL Langley week and I will be giving away a copy of My Regelence Rake to a lucky person who comments on the week which will include a interview with JL and recaps of all the SciFi Regency books to date.  So let’s get to it:

Monday:                               Sidecar by Amy Lane

Tuesday:                               Magic’s Muse by Anne Barwell

Wednesday:                        Gilbert by Bailey Bradford

Thursday:                            Wolf’s Own: Ghost by Carole Cummings

Friday:                                 Inferno by Scarlett Blackwell

Saturday:                             Second Hand by Heidi Cullinan and  Marie Sexton

 

Have a wonderful week.  Get out and enjoy this weather!  Happy Fall All!

The Week Ahead in Reviews and a Great Salad for Anytime of the Year

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The old adage of if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes has always applied to Maryland but never more so than in the last few years.  Where once you could count on May being like May and June acting sensibly like June,  all the months now seem to pull on each others characteristics like a kid trying on their parents clothes.  Frigid one day, boiling the next, mildly cool, then outstandingly gorgeous. Today is one of those days where we have tumbled into August almost overnight.  It will be in the 90’s today so this morning I have been making sure all the bird baths are clean and full as I know they will get a workout by all the robins, catbirds, chickadees, and everyone else who favors my yard with their constant flutterings.  The hummingbird feeders have been changed and the dogs have done their run in the backyard, finished until this evening.

This is Fae Awareness Month so my contribution was a blog called The Sexy Fae of Lost Girl about Lost Girl the SyFy TV series I am addicted to.  Find it here!

I don’t know about you but when the days get hot, I long for salads and meals that are light. I just made a wonderful salad that is perfect to serve year around.  Look for it after  the schedule for the week.  Have a great Sunday!

Monday:                     Don’t Judge A Book by Scarlett Blackwell

Tuesday:                     On The Trail to Moonlight Gulch by Shelter Somerset

Wednesday:               Mystery of Ruby Lode by Scotty Cade

Thursday:                   Ensnared by Dawn H. Hawkes

Friday:                         Lessons in Temptation (Cambridge Fellows #5) by Charlie Cochrane

Saturday:                     Reviewer surprise (Which Means I Can’t Make My Mind Up)

Green Goddess Salad

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup canola oil
Freshly ground pepper
1 large seedless cucumber, thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons thyme leaves
3 large hard-cooked eggs, quartered
1/2 pound feta cheese, crumbled
2 heads of Bibb or butter lettuce, torn into large pieces
1/2 pound haricots verts

Directions (Serves 6, 30 mins to make):

1. In a medium saucepan of salted boiling water, cook the haricots verts until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and cool under running water; pat dry.

2. In a mini processor, combine the shallot, garlic, mustard, cider vinegar and lemon juice and process until smooth. With the machine on, add the canola oil in a thin stream. Add the thyme and pulse until minced. Season with salt and pepper.

3. In a large bowl, combine the torn lettuce, crumbled feta, sliced cucumber, quartered eggs and haricots verts. Add three-fourths of the dressing and toss to coat. Drizzle with the remaining dressing and serve. If you anticipate having some left over, than consider putting the dressing on the side so the salad doesn’t wilt.
MAKE AHEAD The dressing and haricots verts can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.