Series: Borealis Investigations: Book One
Author: Gregory Ashe
Publisher: Amazon/Kindle Unlimited
Length: 384 Pages
At a Glance: Gregory Ashe could teach a master class in writing functionally dysfunctional characters. It would appear he has yet another hit series on his hands.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Shaw and North are best friends, private detectives, and in danger of losing their agency. A single bad case, followed by crippling lawsuits, has put them on the brink of closing shop. Until, that is, a client walks into their Benton Park office.
Matty Fennmore is young, blond, and beautiful, and he’s in danger. When he asks for Shaw and North’s help foiling a blackmail scheme, the detectives are quick to accept.
The conspiracy surrounding Matty runs deeper than Shaw and North expect. As they dig into the identity of Matty’s blackmailer, they are caught in a web that touches politicians, the local LGBT community, and the city’s police.
An attack on Matty drives home the rising stakes of the case, and Shaw and North must race to find the blackmailer before he can silence Matty. But a budding romance lays bare long-buried feelings between Shaw and North, and as their relationship splinters, solving the case may come at the cost of their friendship.
Review: Gregory Ashe could teach a master class in writing functionally dysfunctional characters, characters who have suffered traumatic events—sometimes multiple, sometimes ongoing—and then struggle to live their best lives—sometimes they succeed, sometimes they only succeed at failing for a while. Ashe’s characters are never in a good place when introduced to readers, mentally or emotionally, and in North McKinney’s case, physically. They go through the motions of ‘normality’, trying to get there, and they do…eventually.
But often they settle for crumbs along the way, when they are starved for and deserve so much more.
If there were a better title for this book and the series, I certainly couldn’t come up with it. North is made up of a collision of broken and cobbled-back-together pieces, and his partner in Borealis Investigations, Shaw Aldrich, finds himself oriented to North, not by choice but by virtue of undeniable magnetic attraction. Shaw is trying to coordinate his relationship to North, the noose that is North’s marriage is threatening to strangle him, and everything is complicated by the past and the present. The not insignificant details of North’s marriage and Shaw’s brush with mortality serve to further illustrate how complicated these men are. Their dysfunction is impressive and hurtful and, in some cases, debilitating. And while they have attempted to pinpoint their exact positions in each other’s space, they are failing. North wants Shaw, Shaw wants North, but neither will admit it to the other, so readers watch them suffer this silent longing, something they almost but never quite give in to.
And yet, Ashe somehow manages to bring a certain clarity to the fact that they need each other in ways that will ultimately bring them fulfillment. You won’t find that fulfillment in Orientation, though, because this author is also the master of the long arc, and the slow-burn is only just simmering. And, I think he loves to torture his readers as much as his characters.
This also wouldn’t be a Gregory Ashe novel, of course, without a mystery to investigate, and I loved it for its fatal attraction sort of feel. While there is an overarching, bigger mystery introduced—see: master of the long arc—the one encompassed in Orientation is resolved in Ashe’s hallmark style—through grit, missteps, and perseverance. Whether they have the investigative chops of Emery Hazard (the vague reference to him in the book is fantastic, by the way) and John-Henry Somerset remains to be seen—that’s a work in progress—but they make their way through the clues that lead them into a case of blackmail and murder, putting them in danger’s way and inflicting bodily harm on them. Ashe strikes blow after blow after blow, and all North and Shaw can do is take it and carry on the best they know how.
As always, the banter between Ashe’s characters is spot-on, the snark is pointed, the preemptive verbal assaults are calculated, the ebb and flow of anger and pain is a silent suffering, and neither North nor Shaw escape it. Orientation is dark and raw; it’s a gird-your-loins novel meant for maximum impact, which it achieved…often and at the expense of my feelings. I felt as if I’d been pummeled when I finished this book, in only the best way. It was all worth it, because my need to see these guys safe and happy and whole was triggered from page one and won’t be satisfied until I see them through every last thing Ashe can dream up to torture them into their (presumably) happy end.
It would appear he has yet another hit series on his hands.
You can buy Orientation here:
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