Title: Guilt by Association
Series: Hazard and Somerset: Book Four
Author: Gregory Ashe
Length: 306 Pages
Category: Murder Mystery
At a Glance: With impeccable narrative instincts and characters I’ve grown attached to, Gregory Ashe seems incapable of a storytelling misstep.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Everything in Emery Hazard’s life is finally going well: his boyfriend, Nico, is crazy about him; he has a loyal partner at work; and he has successfully closed a series of difficult murders. By all accounts, he should be happy. What he can’t figure out, then, is why he’s so damn miserable.
After a fight with Nico, Hazard needs work to take his mind off his relationship. And someone in town is happy to oblige by murdering the sheriff. The job won’t be easy; the sheriff had enemies, lots of them, and narrowing down the list of suspects will be difficult. Difficult, but routine.
The arrival of a special prosecutor, however, throws the case into turmoil, and Hazard and Somers find themselves sidelined. With an agenda of his own, the prosecutor forces the case toward his favorite suspect, while Hazard and Somers scramble to find the real killer. As the people they care about are drawn into the chaos, Hazard and Somers have to fight to keep what they love—and to keep each other. To find the killer, they will have to reveal what each has kept buried for years: their feelings for each other.
And for Hazard, that’s a hell of a lot scarier than murder.
Review: Having made mention of the fact that author Gregory Ashe appears to love the long arc and yet keeps this series set to eleven on the pace-o-meter, it’s a bit stunning to realize that the moment so many readers have been waiting for, the moment when Emery Hazard and John-Henry Somerset would finally muster the courage to admit their feelings for each other, has taken only a skosh over three months to happen. The twenty years between their first kiss and now notwithstanding…
But it has. It has finally happened.
The small town of Wahredua, Missouri is a hotbed of criminal activity, from the top all the way down to its seamy underbelly. A crooked mayor, a dirty sheriff, a cop on the take, a white supremacist organization, and a violent radical feminist have each played a part in the setting up of this series, and what Ashe had set on a slow simmer as his arc has unfolded now comes to a roiling boil in Guilt by Association.
Sheriff Morris Bingham is dead and frankly, not a lot of people seem to be sad about it. When hotshot special prosecutor Salvatore Cassella hits Wahredua and takes over the investigation, he stomps on a few toes and relegates Hazard and Somers to doing the preliminary grunt work while a hand-picked investigative team of outsiders handles the heavy lifting. And like the glad-handing politician Cassella is, he isn’t above a little lying, ass-kissing, and feather smoothing to get his way—the smarm oozes from his pores, and Ashe added it liberally. Cassella has an agenda and this high-profile case is just what he needs, this and Wahredua as the litmus test for running as an out gay candidate for the Missouri state legislature. Things also get interesting and the tension mounts when Cassella sets his sights on Hazard’s boyfriend, Nico. The one thing Cassella didn’t count on, however, was meeting his match in Detective Emery Hazard.
I liked all the little tipping points in the story that led to Emery and John-Henry solving the case. They excel at playing good cop/bad cop, because their personalities lend themselves to those roles—Somerset the consummate charmer and Hazard the prickly intimidator (apropos of nothing, I’ve often wondered if Emery might be on the Autism Spectrum)—and they are nothing if not tenacious when it comes to doing the job they’ve been hired to do. As usual, there were enough potential suspects to keep this from being an open and shut investigation, in spite of it appearing so at first blush, and consequently, there was enough to keep me guessing until the big reveal. There are red herrings and leads that go nowhere, and three more deaths complicate the investigation of Bingham’s murder all the more.
But, I loved all the little tipping points that led Hazard and Somerset to finally open up to each other. Gregory Ashe has mastered the element of relationship tension between these two characters, as we readers have been offered a voyeur’s view of each man’s inscape but have watched them outwardly swallow their feelings and give in to their fear of rejection. It was the “please” that caught my attention, to paraphrase a certain dread pirate, and that was the moment it became obvious to both of them that they were gone on each other in a big way.
It doesn’t take a super sleuth to come to the conclusion that the new direction Hazard and Somerset’s relationship is taking isn’t going to be all moonlight and roses. There’s still corruption and plenty of other criminal activity in Wahredua, more people to die, as the case may be, and now there’s the small matter of John-Henry’s ex-wife and little girl for Emery to navigate. This promises to be good.
With impeccable narrative instincts and characters I’ve grown attached to, Gregory Ashe seems incapable of a storytelling misstep. He’s served up yet another excellent installment in the Hazard and Somerset series, and fortunately the wait for the next book isn’t long.
You can buy Guilt by Association here:
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