Title: A Friend in the Dark
Series: An Auden & O’Callaghan Mystery: Book One
Authors: Gregory Ashe and C.S. Poe
Length: 251 Pages
At a Glance: As one would expect from two authors who know their way around a good mystery, A Friend in the Dark establishes the suspense early, keeps it coming, and pulls no punches, leaving readers hanging with an ending that makes clear the romantic arc has a ways to go before it’s resolved.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Rufus O’Callaghan has eked out a living on the streets of New York City by helping the police put away criminals as a confidential informant. But when Rufus shows up for an arranged meeting and finds his handler dead, his already-uncertain life is thrown into a tailspin. Now someone is trying to kill Rufus too, and he’s determined to find out why.
After leaving the Army under less than desirable circumstances, Sam Auden has drifted from town to town, hitching rides and catching Greyhounds, until he learns that a former Army buddy, now a police detective in New York City, has died by suicide. Sam knows that’s not right, and he immediately sets out to get answers.
As Rufus and Sam work together to learn the truth of their friend’s death, they find themselves entangled in a web of lies, cover-ups, and accelerating danger. And when they witness a suspect killed in cold blood, they realize they’re running out of time.
Review: Reading a co-authored novel is an interesting undertaking for readers who are fans of one, or both, of the authors in question, and it’s somewhat inevitable that certain expectations will come into play. As I’m more familiar with Gregory Ashe’s work than C.S. Poe’s, watching for specific influences in A Friend in the Dark, reading to find the author’s voice I’m most familiar with was probably an inevitable result, and there were most certainly times that it was obvious which author inspired the action, details, characterizations, and dialogue, while at others, the writing was so seamless that it was impossible to distinguish. Whether that’s a bonus is, of course, up to each reader. One thing is clear, though; this is a new venture into the world of dirty cops and amateur sleuthing, with child trafficking as the criminal horror in this installment, from two authors well-versed in the Mystery genre. This novel pulls no punches—figuratively or literally—in the storytelling.
Rufus O’Callaghan and Sam Auden are far from a match made in heaven, and in fact, they have a long way to go before they establish anything approaching a healthy sort of relationship. They each have backstories that laid the solid foundation of two men who are fundamentally burdened by circumstance and by their pasts. Sam and Rufus are both struggling to maintain some semblance of a life, which resulted in my loving them individually for their tenacity and perseverance in the face of their own challenges, as well as for their emotional investment in the murder of an NYPD cop they were each involved with in entirely dissimilar ways. There’s still a long…long…way to go, however, before they’ll convince me they can be a viable couple, so for anyone looking for a romantic arc wrapped up on a mystery, be aware that angst and sometimes brutal honesty go hand in hand with closely guarded secrets and vigilantly hiding behind constructed and fortified self-preservation skills. There is no happy beginning for them at the end of this novel, and this is where I could sense some of Gregory Ashe’s influence in the storytelling.
The criminal element and the villainy in this first installment of the Auden and O’Callaghan series are a blatant blow to the heart, and those scenes are written with an obvious gravity and care for telegraphing the weight of the subject. The New York City setting is vibrant and alive, which I couldn’t help sensing C.S. Poe’s hand in, and adds such a great energy to the story as I always expect from the city that never sleeps. The one thing left to be seen is where Rufus and Sam go from here, and if the authors can craft a convincing relationship from the wreckage of their crash and burn at the end of A Friend in the Dark.
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