J.T Hall is a new author to me. The blurb for Murder Once Seen caught my interest, promising a mix of urban fantasy, dystopia, paranormal, mystery, and suspense, with a dash of (light) BDSM. The author managed to wield this melting pot of genres quite nicely, and I felt the book delivered on its promise. It did feel a bit uneven, but overall I enjoyed it.
Derwin, the bounty hunter, hooks up with Elliot, the rent boy, to get his pain fix for his Oddity (see blurb). Derwin discovers Elliot’s ability to see scenes from people’s past by touching their personal items with his palms. Derwin convinces Elliot to help him search for his boyfriend’s killer, since Elliot is able to uncover new clues with the help of his Oddity.
Derwin and Elliot made for some interesting characters. Their attraction to each other was instant and explosive. Their wariness and distrust, that seems to infuse this world, morphed into trust and something deeper. They were really sweet together. Two lost souls slowly mending each other’s different wounds.
I really enjoyed the world build and the look I got into this urban/dystopian future. While I enjoyed it, I felt it wasn’t fully explored. I hope the author will show me more of this world in the sequels, there is a lot of potential here.
The mystery and suspense were the somewhat weak parts. The bad guy was pretty obvious, so the mystery wasn’t much of a mystery, more like following big flashing signs. The way Elliot used his abilities underway was cool, even though it made him see some unpleasant things.
There was a scene in the book that took me totally off guard. It had to do with the publisher’s warning of sexual assault and dubious consent that I didn’t know about until writing this review (I’ve included the warning in the blurb above). It involved Elliot and one of his clients (he is a rentboy by profession after all in this book), who is the leader of the gang controlling the section of the city where Elliot, his Madame and her stable of prostitutes operate. Elliot had to do the session with the sadistic gang leader to keep Elliot and the others working the street safe from the gang.
The scene was graphic with violence and dub con/non con sex. I wasn’t expecting it at all, and found it very unpleasant. I’m not strictly opposed to reading a scene like that, but I really want to know beforehand, so I know to expect it. I’m giving Riptide an annoyed side eye here, since they really ought to include the warning in the blurb, and not just have it on a separate section under the book on their website. The warning is not listed on Amazon or Goodreads, so an unsuspecting reader might pick up this book getting more than they bargained for.
This explicit scene notwithstanding, I enjoyed reading Murder Once Seen since I’m a sucker for urban fantasy, dystopian, paranormal, and mystery and murder. I do feel like the author tried to include or mix together too many genres and plot points, that it fell short in some areas, like the mystery. It might have been a tighter story focusing on fewer plot points, but exploring those few more. However, the world build was intriguing with its demons and Oddites. I liked Elliot and Derwin, and they were perfect for each other. I liked that they had to work to develop their relationship, even though they initially were insta-love/lust.
The story has a HEA, or more like HFN since turn of events set the stage for a sequel. I’m pretty sure I’ll be reading the next installment wanting to see more of Derwin and Elliot in their world.
That's what I did with this one. 'Murder Once Seen' is a new to me author writing in what is a new to her genre...paranormal/gay/mystery/suspense, I have to admit for me it felt more like a M/m Urban Fantasy with a definite dystopian flavor and a dash of mystery/suspense thrown in, but however you want to categorize it I liked it a lot...a whole lot!
Elliot's a rent boy in the city of Nis, he's been on the streets since the age of 14 when his parents tossed him out not for his oddity but because he's gay. Life's not easy living on the streets and having the uncontrolled ability to read objects along with being gay and the fact that he likes...no loves pain and the chances of getting off the streets and having a safe, normal life seems like a bit of a pipe dream for Elliot. He never intended for this to be his life but then there's a lot he never intended to happen, but sometimes life just is what it is.
Derwin's got his own oddity one that he tries hard to keep off of the radar of the powers that be. He feeds off of other people's pain but the pain he craves is the pain that's freely given between a Dom and his sub. His oddity also gives him superhuman strength and agility...helpful skills if you're a bounty hunter. He's been alone for a while now because it's been 2 years since his boyfriend was murdered. A murder that still remains unsolved and that eats away at Derwin with the need to know what happened.
What started out as a job for Elliot and a way to feed and get a little sexual relief for Derwin quickly turns into a case of really strong mutual attraction when both men realize that their personal kinks are very mutually agreeable, but it's more than that as they each feel the stirrings of an underlying attraction that draws them towards one another. I wouldn't call this a case of insta-love necessarily, it's close but for me it didn't quite have that feel and it was tempered by the fact that while both men were aware of their mutual attraction, they were also resistant to how fast and strong their attraction was developing.
I liked that their relationship was a far cry from boy-meets-boy, fall into bed and they all lived happily ever after. It so did not happen this way. There were obstacles...lots of them on both sides.
My only issue with this story and honestly for me it was a small one and didn't really detract from my overall enjoyment of the story was at the very beginning we're given Derwin's background regarding his boyfriends death through a flashback and basically we get Elliot's background the same way and some of the general information about the overall setting is filtered in between the main character's flashbacks. So my issue and I have to say this may very well be a me thing but for some reason I found the flashbacks a little confusing and more so Elliot's than Derwin's. Ultimately for me it's was a minor glitch.
I loved the mystery/suspense part of this story and the way it balanced with the development of Derwin and Elliot's relationship. Now, I don't really think I say this often and I know my friends will correct me if I'm wrong here, but i seriously would have been good with these guys having more up close and personal time than they did. Arguably the storyline didn't really facilitate this happening but it didn't stop me from wanting it. Derwin and Elliot were seriously hot together...very, very hot...ok, I may have read some parts twice but it was just for clarity...honest, purely in the interest of clarifying details.
I honestly can't wait for the next book in this series and I am so all over this one, but a word of warning to those who may choose to read this story...please keep in mind what Elliot does for a living...he's a rentboy, no there's not tons of him and other people sex happening honestly there's one scene and the sex is really more off page but again he's a rentboy. Also the ending is a bit cliff-hangerish and our guys have more of an HFN at this point but really excellent story and so worth going back for book 2, Fraud Twice Felt (coming soon) according to the book...sign me up, I'm all over this one.
An ARC of 'Murder Once Seen' was graciously provided by the publisher through Net Galley.