Title: Criminal Past
Series: Hazard and Somerset: Book Six
Author: Gregory Ashe
Length: 589 Pages
At a Glance: The Hazard and Somerset series is profound; from execution to engagement, it’s one of the best series I’ve ever experience and is, without a doubt, the best I’ve read this year.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: It all starts to go wrong at the shooting gallery. Emery Hazard and his boyfriend, John-Henry Somerset, just want to enjoy the day at the Dore County Independence Fair. At the shooting gallery, though, Hazard comes face to face with one of his old bullies: Mikey Grames. Even as a drugged-out wreck, Mikey is a reminder of all the ugliness in Hazard’s past. Worse, Mikey seems to know something Hazard doesn’t—something about the fresh tension brewing in town.
When the Chief of Police interrupts Hazard’s day at the fair, she has a strange request. She doesn’t want Hazard and Somers to solve a murder. She wants them to prevent one. The future victim? Mayor Sherman Newton—a man who has tried to have Hazard and Somers killed at least once.
Hazard and Somers try to work out the motive of the man threatening Newton, and the trail leads them into a conspiracy of corrupt law enforcement, white supremacists, and local politicians. As Hazard and Somers dig into the case, their search takes them into the past, where secrets have lain buried for twenty years.
Determined to get to the truth, Hazard finds himself racing for answers, but he discovers that sometimes the past isn’t buried very deep. Sometimes, it isn’t dead. Sometimes, it isn’t even past. And almost always, it’s better left alone.
Review: Wow. Just…wow.
Gregory Ashe’s Criminal Past reads like an acute case of fiction induced anxiety disorder. Of course, this could be owed entirely to my unhealthy (probably) investment in the lives of detectives Emery Hazard and John-Henry Somerset. For those of us who’ve been following along through the six brilliant books in this series to see how Ashe would bring all the threads of each murder together in the overall arc of corruption in Wahredua, Missouri, the wait is over.
And it is stunning.
This author’s writing is masterful, intense, provocative, and this series is one of the best laid, most meticulously plotted mystery/police procedurals out there. Not only has the past hovered like a death shroud over Hazard and Somers’ present, but that specter has now reared its head to haunt them in terrifying, dreadful, malicious and persistent ways. A focused Emery Hazard is a rather spectacular and fierce thing, but that singular fixation has also caused its share of problems for him. His first love, Jeff Langham, had kept secrets that Emery is only now beginning to uncover, and their connection to political malfeasance, dirty law enforcement, sexual assault, and a multi-layered trafficking ring that includes a white supremacist group is full of twists, turns, and revelations that by turns kept me riveted and left me reeling.
Amidst the suspense—the at times almost unbearable suspense—is the relationship between Hazard and Somerset, which has always held an undercurrent of residual trauma informing the fragile love that began building from the moment Hazard returned to Wahredua. The relationship that has, somehow, grown from the ashes of a troubled past which entwines with the investigation the detectives are deeply and personally embroiled in is tried and tested in various ways in Criminal Past, and at times the doubts and questions were equally almost unbearable to read. Every single moment, however, was one of decisions and growth, and at a crucial point for John-Henry, Ashe penned one of the most intense and gorgeous moments of redemption and a relationship coming full circle that I’ve ever read. The growth and growing awareness of forgiveness between these two characters is a thing of beauty. They are quite possibly two of the most beautifully flawed men ever to grace the pages, and the way Ashe deconstructs and puts them back together again is exceptional.
The Hazard and Somerset series is profound; from execution to engagement, it’s one of the best series I’ve ever experienced and is, without a doubt, the best I’ve read this year. If you haven’t started these books but have been meaning to, read them now. This is the final Hazard and Somerset book in this chapter of their lives, and every moment, every torment and revelation, and every glimpse of hope for their future together is so worth the journey to get here.
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