Rating: 4 stars out of 5
At 32, Jack is a seasoned police officer. He has done everything possible to prepare his rookie partner, Kevin “The Kid”, for their undercover operation. But during the drug bust, things go horribly wrong and Jack is left with his partner dying in his arms. Off duty and beset by guilt, Jack and his Chief accept the responsiblity of relaying the news to Kevin’s wife, another police officer. At loose ends, Jack and Marie become friends and he agrees to go with her to Alabama to bury Kevin in his home town.
At the church, Jack is in for another shock when Devin, Kevin’s twin brother,appears at the funeral. Devin is a photographer and gay. He is also determined to help Marie when they all find out that Marie is pregnant. A tentative romance continues when Devin makes the surprise decision to leave California and move east to help Marie,. Such impetuousness is rewarded with a slammed door and an offer of a guest room from Jack. Soon their romance is hotter than ever.
But each time, things start to settle down for Jack, Devin, and even Marie, obstacles rise up to shatter the calm and bring them all to the edge of despair once more. Kevin’s mother blames Marie for Kevin being a police officer and his death. And the aftermath of the drug deal is still playing out.
You can’t go home again but what happens when the new home you are trying to make is threatened at every turn? Jack,and Devin are about to find out.
The opening chapters of You Can’t Go Home Again are so heartbreaking that they will stay with you for the entire book. It brings the short-lived character of The Kid alive, and he ends up hovering over the proceedings for the rest of the story. You get a real feel for Jack and his partner as things go very wrong and the Kid makes one shattering bad decision that will cost him his life. It’s shocking, painful, and the death scene is gut wrenching. Michael Murphy really delivers in the scenes where the officers are helping a shattered Jack dress and leave for Kevin’s home to relay the news of Kevin’s death to his wife. Here the pain and strength of the Thin Blue Line is poignantly portrayed and it gives a ring of authenticity to Jack as a law enforcement officer.
The power of those opening pages are so strong that sometimes the rest of the story fades under its impact. But that element of soft discourse is needed after such an emotional start. Marie’s character, especially, almost requires a quiet fortitude that comes through in the narrative. Murphy shows the restrained and stress filled support both Jack and Marie bring to each other. Jack in feeling that he hadn’t done enough to get to know his partner and Marie filling in the gaps for Jack from Kevin’s perspective and hers. It’s a lovely relationship and a touching one.
The ugliness of the Alabama family and the strain of the funeral are realistic and shocking . Here the antagonism of the mother and the reveal of the twin brother come together to show how shattering Kevin’s death is and how far its impact spreads. It also helps to bring Jack, Marie and Devin together as a unit as characters and in the eyes of the reader. You can almost feel the scrabbled together family bonds forming.
Murphy’s story still have some twists and turns as it turns the halfway point, One ties up neatly with the events that occur in the beginning and others from relationships still playing out from peoples pasts.
There are a few things I wish had been added, last names for one. I feel having a whole name contributes to a complete character identity and that was lacking all over the place here. Too, I wish the character of Devin had been a little more realized. He came across as less a complete person than his brother who is alive for only a small amount of time on the pages. Still, I loved the relationships that formed here. Whether it is the romance between Jack and Devin, or the brothers/sisterly ones that formed between Jack, Devin, and Marie, I enjoyed watched each and every one form and deepen over time.
I do recommend this story and think you will find You Can’t Go Home Again a rewarding way to spend the day reading.
Cover art by L.C. Chase. I like the cover but that model is either fine for The Kid or Devin but too young looking for Jack.
ebook, 200 pages
Published July 18th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press (first published July 17th 2014)