Title: Domestic Animals
Series: Hazard and Somerset: Arrows in the Hand: Book Three
Author: Gregory Ashe
Length: 427 Pages
Category: Murder Mystery
Rating: 5 Stars
At a Glance: Just when I think I’ve reached my maximum capacity of love for these characters, another book comes along and I’m proved wrong. This series could have rested on the strength of the mysteries and cruised with the happy family dynamic, but Ashe keeps surprising me, keeps things realistic, keeps pushing me to the brink, and I keep loving it.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Sometimes, the most dangerous animals are the ones you let inside.
When a man hires Emery Hazard to track down a teenager who, he claims, robbed him, Hazard isn’t convinced. The story has holes in it, and the client seems eager—too eager—to keep the authorities from getting involved. But Hazard is willing to play along; he suspects something much darker is going on, and he wants to know what it is.
Then his husband, John-Henry Somerset, connects the boy in question to an ongoing suspicious death investigation, and both men realize they’ve stumbled upon something much more complicated. There are too many loose threads: missing money, stolen jewelry, a husband back from the dead, and a string of violent assaults on men paying for sex. And there are too many people with their own agendas.
After Hazard’s client turns up dead, though, the pressure is on. The killer isn’t done yet, and the closer Hazard and Somers come to unearthing the connection between the victims, the greater the danger. They find themselves in a race to uncover the truth before another victim is claimed—and, if Somers is really lucky, in time for him to plan the perfect Valentine’s Day.
Review: Isn’t everything that follows the happily ever after supposed to be dull, boring? Isn’t that why fairy tales and romance novels end there? Of course it is. But, then again, the Hazard-Somerset household has never been anything so common as boring, even before the I-dos, so why should that change now?
Hazard and Somers didn’t get much of a honeymoon phase, considering they arrived home from theirs and Congratulations! It’s a Boy! They and their foster son, Colt, are still learning the parent/child dance, which is full of delicate steps and painfully inelegant missteps, and that dance is made even more intricate when the teenager involved is accustomed to surviving on his own and has never known a moment of his life where he could depend on the adults who were supposed to take care of him. To complicate things further, Emery is about as blunt as a sledgehammer—he loves hard, protects harder—and Somers toes that line between wanting to be Colt’s parent and wanting to be his buddy.
Colt’s teenage urge to push against boundaries and step outside the lines sees him making some inarguably questionable choices, again, and things get messy in a hurry. Those choices end up placing him in the crosshairs of Hazard’s latest case, which also happens to end up overlapping with Wahredua’s most recent murder. Everything about the guy who hires Emery is suspicious—of course, everyone is at least a little suspicious to Emery Hazard, so it stands to reason—and, as always, the case includes an intricate web of deceit, more than a few suspects, and explosive revelations I couldn’t have seen coming with binoculars and 20/20 vision.
Colt and his best friend, Ash, are fighting. That’s when a couple of classmates take notice and befriend Colt. His new friends, one of whom is the son of the murder victim, are entangled in ways that, frankly, gutted me a little and left me in awe at the same time. That I could have seen coming blindfolded, because everything about this series has, at one time or another, left me gutted and in awe. When Colt and his friends very nearly die in the process of the investigation, everything escalates a hundredfold, because protecting their own is what Hazard and Somers do, at all costs. Each of the clues in their investigation are meticulously parsed out in striking detail by striking detail. The end of the chapter is where readers are supposed to be able to stop, put a book down, and go to sleep. The end of a Hazard and Somerset chapter is where Gregory Ashe strategically drops his sinister little bombs to make sure we keep reading, and they are plentiful in Domestic Animals.
Emery is learning that being a good parent sometimes means unlearning things he’s internalized over the years. He understands that projecting his own lived experiences onto to Colt is unproductive, and watching him struggle with that only endeared him to me more. Part of Colt’s rebellion is simply a teenager being a teenager, but a good part of it is Colt testing a parent who could probably modulate his muchness just a bit. Still more of it is Colt challenging Emery to make sure he cares enough to keep loving Colt no matter what. The moments when Hazard, Somers, and Colt are butting heads and struggling are some of the purest, truest moments in Domestic Animals. The moments when they resolve those conflicts are some of the book’s most emotionally flawless.
Somers himself is having a hard time holding things together on all fronts. Transitioning from being everyone’s buddy, especially their drinking buddy, to being the chief of police has meant dealing with constant insubordination, unsubtle antagonism, and blatant homophobia, not to mention his father’s interference for political points (isn’t it always?). The pressure is relentless, and it’s taking a toll on John. Adding to it, he has a rookie officer who has no qualms about making demands on Somers’ personal time. And then there’s Dulac who’s . . . well, he’s being as Dulac as he’s ever been.
As the chief of police, Somers should not be out solving crimes—that’s why he has an entire department of detectives and uniformed officers—but a John-Henry Somerset who’s out investigating a murder is a Somers who is confident in his skin, much more so than the Somers who sits behind a desk and deals with the bureaucracy. Watching him struggle to work through this by himself, coming home from work every night and psyching himself up to face everything going on at home, was more than a little heartbreaking. Watching him finally break down, then confide in Emery, and Em being there, listening, processing without judgement, loving his husband, was a bit of perfection in an imperfect world.
Gregory Ashe has portrayed these characters so consistently from Pretty Pretty Boys on. This is the core of who they are and yet they are a constant work-in-progress, and the changes they’ve gone through have been hard won through no small amount of trial and error. Just when I think I’ve reached my maximum capacity of love for them, another book comes along and I’m proved wrong. I’m not sure if I’m learning new things about them, or am merely loving more of the little things that have always made them, them. This series could have rested on the strength of the mysteries and cruised with the happy family dynamic, but Ashe keeps surprising me, keeps things realistic, keeps pushing me to the brink, and I keep loving it.
You can buy Domestic Animals here:
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4 thoughts on “Review: Domestic Animals by Gregory Ashe”
Excellent review, Lisa! I’m behind now as I haven’t read ‘Custody Battles’ so I’d better get a move on LOL
Gah! You still have so much drama to get through. LOL
Why do you think I haven’t read it yet? LOL Only so much Hazard drama I can handle at one time
Let me tell you, I think there’s something wrong with me because I know Greg is going to get me right in the feels every single time, and I keep coming back for more like an addict. LOL