My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Over all I really enjoyed Hexbreaker but I had some serious reservations about the ending.
Tom Halloran is a cop in the non-magical police force in the late 1890s but he has a secret that we learn early on. He was actually born into a thief family and something seriously bad happened, leaving him taking on the name and job of a dead man from Ireland. Tom is good at his job, proud of his patch but one night things change. He comes across magic that puts him in mind of that terrible night that changed his life and a man he's known for years is out of his mind and killing his wife with his bare hands and teeth.
This puts Tom in the path of the magical police force where witches are bonded to familiars, a group of animal shifters (there are cats, crows, owls, wolverines and more). He meets Cicero, an unbonded cat familiar who also lives pretty openly as a gay man rather given over to wearing kohl eyeliner. Cicero has a problem of his own. If he doesn't bond soon, he'll be forced to do it with someone who isn't 'his'. (They can tell the mage they're supposed to be with).
Unsurprisingly Cicero sees Tom as his and is shocked because Tom isn't a mage (that's Tom's other big secret) and Tom is, so he assumes, a big brutish cop more likely to beat the crap out of a gay man rather than look at him. He wants nothing to do with Tom.
Forced to work together, they have to find out who is making killing hexes and distributing them and why. As Tom and Cicero get to know one another, breaking each other's preconceived notions, they realize that maybe they just are meant for each other but will they live long enough to act on it.
While I thought maybe the setting was a bit lackluster, I thought the characters were very well done. Tom, Cicero and the others, especially Rook were fully realized and a lot of fun. I really want to read more of this series (though I think the other books have different characters, not unusual for a romance series which always does sort of disappoints me), The mystery was interesting and the world building was as well, though a little unnerving in how close to slavery the familiars are (which is a plot point to be fair).
Now let's talk about what bothered me about the end here under a spoiler cut So Tom's secret could end up with him in jail and at the end of noose, and with him bonded to Cicero means Cicero would be thrown out on the streets as a 'feral' and he does not bother to tell this to Cicero to let him make an informed decision. It's a particularly crappy thing to do.
Naturally Cicero is pissed and it leads to him falling into the clutches of our villain but since this is a character already known to Cicero this could have been accomplished other ways without making me thing way less of our protagonist and I do. It was hard to see something good in how Tom handled it
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The Murder Pit by Mick Finlay
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I received this from a Goodreads giveaway which did not influence my review. Honestly I was late in reviewing this ARC and wasn't sure what to put on it. I generally put two stars on ones that I think have problems structurally and I can't say that with this one. It's well written but it's simply not for me. Now I didn't read book one which did impact this read (a little unusual for mystery series) because I was missing how Arrowood and Barnett began their partnership and I needed that because they didn't seem to really like each other.
Apparently the first one was funny and I see a lot of reviews saying this one wasn't and boy wasn't it. It's downright dismal. It has at its heart the treatment of the mentally ill and people with birth defects (Down's syndrome in particular) at the height of the Victorian era, something I already know quite a bit about. It's ugly stuff, especially when you realize that not only did Downs (who the syndrome was named for. They were called Mongoliod Idiots at this time period which the author does use (and explains in an author note) think that those with Downs were a racial regression but also that meant they considered Asians to be inferior to Whites and stupid on top of it. That's some ugly stuff (true to the time period but damn ugly).
There is nothing funny about this book (not that it needs to be. I don't read mysteries for the laughs) but there is something annoying about it. Apparently Arrowood is fat and Barnett tells us this constantly. Okay we get it. the constant fat shaming (which yes would never have been considered an issue back then) grated on me as Arrowood burps, farts and diarrheas his way through this story.
I thought it might be interesting to see him in regards to Holmes because it's marketed as he's the antithesis of Sherlock Holmes but all we get is him bitching how Holmes gets all the attention and he gets none. That I could handle but then we get a newspaper campaign denigrating Arrowood and that's threaded thru the novel and if I hadn't agreed to review this I probably would have stopped because of this (and his constant bellyaching)
They have a case, Birdie Barclay's parents want her back after she's been married off to a farming family who they claim is abusing her and not letting her see them. Birdie has Down's syndrome. This quickly leads them to a) realize the Barclays are lying b) the farm family is downright abusive and c) there is something hinky with the asylum that moves inmates out to that farm as workers.
This isn't a bad book and the mystery is interesting BUT it goes on way too long. This book felt 100 pages longer than it needed to be. It felt like it was spinning its wheels, just wallowing in its misery and with literally everyone against Arrowood from cops, to politicians to the newspaper I can't see how he can be effective. It felt like far too much.
There is one thing he does which was technically a crime (without being too spoilery, he breaks into the asylum after evidence) which gets reported in the paper but never even touched by the cops. Seeing as they hate Arrowood that made no sense to me. At the end of the day this wasn't a book for me. I gave it three stars because it's well written but I'm not into things this dreary. I didn't like the characters. It was a two star read for me at best and I don't see me continuing the series.
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