By Carsen Taite
Bold Strokes Books
Pub date: 16-June-2020
AMBER LOVE 01-SEP-2020 This review is a courtesy provided by NetGalley. To support this site and my other work, please consider being a monthly donor at Patreon.com/amberunmasked; you can also buy my books through Amazon (or ask your local retailer to order you copies). I’m also an Amazon Influencer so you can shop through my lists of recommended products.
Urban artist Riley Flynn spends her days wandering the streets of Dallas, sketching the city she loves. Then dead bodies start showing up in the exact locations she was sketching, and the police arrive on her doorstep. With every reason in the world to distrust the law, she’s reluctant to help the striking detective assigned to the case, especially after the cops start treating her like a suspect. As the stakes get deadlier, Riley’s instinct for self-protection wars with civic duty and unexpected attraction.
Detective Claire Hanlon is all about the facts, all about the law, and all about climbing the Dallas PD ladder. Her career advancement hinges on capturing the killer terrorizing the city, and the only thing in her way is the incredibly stubborn, incredibly beautiful person of interest, Riley Flynn, who is also incredibly off limits. Because she might be guilty of murder.
DRAWN marks the first book I’ve read by Carsen Taite and it was a fantastic reading experience. I didn’t even realize I selected a mystery from the LGBTQIA section of NetGalley. The murderous plot about a serial killer who leaves art sketches on the victims’ bodies created a mystery I could envelope myself in as a figure model and comic book fan. The dueling protagonists, Riley and Claire, have tension immediately and it never lets up.
From chapter to chapter some things are a little repetitious, but no more so than other books where the authors feel the need to emphasize things. The setting is Dallas, Texas. Taite describes landmarks and scenes with precision. The Ginger Man bar is a real place – technically places – and has a location in New York City too. The bar plays a role in being the afterhours spot for drinks when the Eastside Sketchers art group relax after hours of drawing.
I will question a bothersome use of “namaste” in a throw-away sentence describing one of the murder victims who was positioned to be seated upright with legs crossed. I’ve listened to a lot of yoga podcasts and one thing I’ve learned from Yoga is Dead hosts and yoga teacher Susanna Barkataki is that white people have done so much colonization of yoga including how and when the word “namaste” is kicked around. There are countless memes and t-shirts with quips like “namastay in bed” or whatever. Before I derail into a diatribe about it, let this be a little #protip to other writers that you should not throw around Sanskrit terms to be your white colonizer pun. I say this as a white yoga teacher.
Readers don’t get to learn much about the victims. Only enough information is presented to point out that all the victims have some similarities as they do with an old case. Humanizing them more could have added to the book. I read a digital copy so I don’t have page numbers to reference. The first body is revealed around 18% and the second one at 40%. The cops can’t catch the killer in time to stop a third body from showing up at 68%. Roughly every fifth of the book increases the stakes.
Riley has another important relationship taxing her emotionally throughout Drawn. While she can typically push romances to the side, she could not avoid her father and the pressure from her mother to reconnect with him once he gets out of prison. This was a huge part of the plot that I found relatable despite the detail that Riley’s father was in prison for murder. Dysfunction and burned bridges are familiar ground. I’m a firm advocate of allowing toxic relationships to die when they can’t be mended. Family is choice is my motto.
Claire’s only other relationships are with fellow cops: her partner Nick and her mentor Bruce. Nick tries to bring common sense and keep Claire on course to avoid getting involved with their top person of interest, Riley. Bruce and the superiors of the police force only care about pinning the crimes on one person, resolving the case quickly, and seeing Claire rise through the ranks. Claire isn’t willing to compromise her integrity of arresting the wrong person to further her career.
Besides the well-crafted murder mysteries, Taite delivered the best sex scene I’ve ever read. I won’t spoil any of it.
The killer’s real identity is revealed at the climax and I had never figured it out until then. For those interested in pacing of murder mysteries, this was at 92% when Riley is placed in dire peril and Claire gets to save her (you knew that much was coming based on their progress). Riley is never a helpless damsel though. Early on, her strong physique and capable muscles are made clear.
Rating: 5 stars