As with the previous two books in this series, traveling and getting to know each other while trapped together in a confined space plays an important part in the MCs' relationship. Unlike the previous two books, they weren't frenemies beforehand, and the traveling didn't force them to come to terms with their differences and learn to appreciate each other, with that appreciation quickly turning to love.
I said in my review for the second book - Status Update? Or was it Beta Test? I don't really remember which one came first or second. - that they were too similar to each other and I probably would've done better to wait to listen to the second book so I could better appreciate it on its own merits. And that's why I waited so long to finally get around to this one. Well, that's one reason. The other would be Sean Crisden, who is at best a meh narrator for me, so he doesn't exactly inspire me to rush out and get his books. Yet somehow, despite his meh-ness, I still really enjoyed this book.
I was really pleased to see that this book deviated a bit from the previous two. Ryan doesn't work for the video game developer that Josiah works for, so the first time they meet is on their flight, which they're both taking for different reasons. So there's none of that boring frenemy nonsense to bog through. They hit it off immediately and forge a really strong friendship while geeking out over the video game expansion packet Josiah is developing.
And then they land - and Josiah realizes for the first time that Ryan, the super hunky Navy SEAL he's been sitting next to this whole time, is a double amputee, missing both his legs - and in true Josiah fashion he blurts out the most horrible insensitive thing you can say to an amputee. It doesn't matter that he doesn't mean it in a cruel way, that he's just stating the obvious in his shock. It's a bad thing and he knows it and immediately tries to apologize. Thankfully, Ryan's able to forgive him and their friendship continues.
A lot of this is told through their various texts and emails as they have a friends with benefits relationship long-distance while Ryan does his rehab in Texas Josiah works on his video expansion pack in Germany and California. We get to see them actually be friends and come to care for and like each other in that capacity. Yes, Ryan knows very early on that he wants more than just friendship, but there's no instalove here. I loved pretty much everything about their relationship and how it developed. Ryan takes longer to get to where Josiah is, but he's actually there a lot sooner than he realizes or admits.
While I did like seeing them chit chat back and forth, these parts did kind of drag a wee bit. I'd have skimmed/skipped right over all those To:s and From:s and Subject:s if I were reading this myself so I could get to the actual messages faster. Crisden naturally had to read all those headers out in full. Also, Crisden does this weird thing with his voice when he's reading their texts and emails, like he's almost trying to make them sound a little robotic or automated. Or maybe he's just being typical Crisden. Hard to tell.
All the rehab stuff with Ryan and his goals and ambitions were very well done. I can tell the author did her research, and while I can't validate any of this as authentic, it did seem to be stuff that a double amputee would be reasonably expected to tackle during his recovery.
Josiah's issues at work though - I feel like Josiah got shortchanged in his own book. We get to meet Ryan's rehab team and see him doing his rehab and having his setbacks and successes and frustrations. Josiah's issues at work, leading a team for the first time and dealing with his ADHD and how that makes people undermine him, is mostly given lip service. We're told about it, but we don't actually see it. There's only one scene in the entire book at his job. One! Everything else we hear about secondhand, and not even from Josiah some of those times. And for all that we're told his ADHD can make reading social cues difficult, other than that first snafu on the airplane, we're also not really shown that either. There's so much focus on Ryan, that Josiah just got shifted to the side.
If there had been a better balance of scenes, I'd have given this four stars easily, but as it is, 3.5 is the best I can do.
"Well, well, well... What the fuck's got you so damn worked up, son?" he says, and flicks the head of my cock hard; I wince but manage not to make a sound. "Have you been a bad boy and touched something that doesn't belong to you? And don't you goddamn lie to me."
"Will you look at the mess you've made of yourself? How long's your cock been drooling all over you?"
"All day, Sarge. Like you wanted."
Well, this is a first - my rating actually went down on a reread. The book just wasn't as effective for me in audio and knowing the outcome already tended to show its flaws more.
The narrator, Kale Williams, has a decent enough voice, but I never really warmed up to it, and I had to listen at 1.25 speed just to be able to listen to him. At regular speed, he was just too slow (most narrators are, to be fair) and he didn't really bring the story to life - at either speed, really. Much of the atmosphere that was so intimate when reading it myself was lost in the audio, at least for me, and it was the atmosphere that made up a big part of the story.
Then there's the story itself. A lot of the impact of the first read was learning who the whodunit was. This time around, I was looking for more specific clues or hints, and there really weren't any. And that whole climax was just non-sensical, to say the least. They really should've just pulled you know who into questioning while they called in backup to look for you know what, but I guess that wouldn't have been as exciting - and it wouldn't have given Jason a chance to face his fears, but that wasn't a big enough plot point for me to overlook the TSTL there at the end, not this time around anyway. Plus, knowing the ultimate reveal makes everything that comes before it rather a moot point, so while it was still interesting, at least in relation to Kennedy and his precarious position in the bureau, and to a lesser extent Jason's connection to the previous murders, it didn't really hold interest for the mystery itself. I was getting rather impatient with all of it, actually.
The biggest mystery continues to be Sam Kennedy. While I liked Jason a lot, I never got why Sam liked him - or at least why he liked him as quickly as he did. Except that this is m/m, and in order to be m/m there must be the sex, and in order to have the sex the MCs have to find each other appealing in some way. I still think this would've worked better as a dual POV instead of getting everything from Jason's POV.
"For a terrifying moment I thought he was going to hug me, but fortunately we both remembered we were English just in time. Still, it was a close call."
I'm confused by what this series is doing with its vampires. On the one hand, they don't sparkle and that's always a good thing. Aaronvitch is definitely doing something different with them than the same-old, same-old, which is also good. But... jazz vampires? That's either really brilliant or really lame. But they're still not sparkling, so they're several points ahead of some other vampires I could name but won't. ;)
If you're familiar with The Dresden Files, I'd liken these vamps more to the incubus vamps in that series. It's certainly interesting, but it also sets up an rather contrived series of events that leads Grant to the whodunit and it just doesn't really get me throwing up the jazz hands, if you get my drift. It also raises some questions that I'm hoping get answered in the next book.
And while Peter continues to be a darling, I have to say, I can't get terribly choked up about some vampires getting dusted. (And now I'm wondering if the creators of Grimm are fans of this series. That show can certainly be described as a cross between Supernatural and Peter Grant/Rivers of London.)
I'm pleased to say that the narrator does a much better job here than he did with the first book. He must've gotten some coaching tips between books because none of the constant asthmatic breathing is present here. It's a very smooth narration, and despite his voice still being sexy as hell, I was actually able to concentrate on what he was saying. :D
This was still loads of fun, and I'm looking forward to continuing the series.