Geography of a Murder by PA Brown
Jason Zachary finds himself with a map straight into a murder rap when he runs afoul of Santa Barbara detective Alexander Spider, charged with the murder of a man he’s never met.
[Keeping with the MLR tradition of truly hideous covers. I think this press rivals Torquere unfortunately.]
I usually think blurbs share too much but in this case I think the author could have given a little more depth because the summary definitely doesn’t do justice to this story. A wonderful mix of mystery, BDSM, and fabulous characters brought to life, this story is an example of a solid book that you’ll definitely want to read. Although the BDSM element to the story tends to edge on the heavier side with sadomasochistic needs and desires of both men, many of the activities were kept off page and behind a closed bedroom door so it’s unlikely to offend any more sensitive readers. The cleverly crafted mystery was well done and although all the clues were there for a predictable ending, the story sucked me in so completely that I learned the answers just as the characters did. There were some problems with the writing, but I doubt they will affect enjoyment of the story.
The plot is equal parts mystery and the building of a new relationship between Alex and Jason. The mystery portion and police work is given equal weight, if not more page time, than the actual relationship, which gives a very well balanced and interesting story. The who-dun-it was skillfully handled, giving clues and enough information for the answer to be clever and subtle, but really the entire journey draws you in so you’re happy to learn when the characters do. There were several holes in various details of the mystery that are never successfully cleaned up but for the most part these details are forgotten in the skillful handling of the mystery, but they were there. Clearly this author knows police work and can research, which is shown brilliantly in the level of detail from the day to day paper work to the details of sailing and even intricate BDSM and fetish gear. Nothing is added in this story that is not carefully researched and thought-out, creating a fully three dimensional and realized world. The scents and textures added to every level of description and created an underlying emotion and vitality to the prose that was sometimes lacking.
The story is told in alternating first person point of view, which is not always a reader favorite. I personally don’t have any problems with first person as long as the characters are strong enough and interesting enough to pull it off. In this case, there was no question as the transitions were seamless and almost flawless, picking up where the previous scene left off and giving the alternate perspective and progressing the storyline. The pace was even and held to the same intensity throughout. If I had a complaint about the writing, it is that the pacing and prose was almost too even. The same level of emotion and intensity was given to Jason cleaning and doing laundry, as it was when he was doing drugs and submitting sexually to Alex. Even the resolution to the murder and romantic declarations all had the same tone and voice, which kept the flow easy but without a gripping tension and electricity. This doesn’t take away much from the book, but it does end with a less intense reaction than this solid story could have had otherwise.
The characters of Jason and Alex are both fully three dimensional, realized men. Jason is a young but experienced twenty-two, used to doing drugs and picking up men for one-night stands. He’s not a hustler exactly but he’s not opposed to be slipped extra cash to cover a bar bill or a friendly tip. He needs and wants Alex more than even he realizes at first and easily moves into the role of submissive with Alex. That is not to say that Jason is an easy or simple character as he’s arguably more complicated than Alex. Jason’s strengths and weaknesses are compelling and gripping and his struggles with work, Alex, drugs, alcohol, and sex create an engaging character. His perspective was much more dynamic than Alex’s, an affect that was likely done on purpose. His character is more explored and more open than any other.
Alex on the other hand is kept a mystery and given only hints to his feelings and thoughts. There is a great scene where Jason questions what Alex is feeling and thinking and as a result, Jason is left to sleep on the couch as a punishment for challenging Alex. What Alex was thinking even from his perspective is kept hidden and vague so as to give him a very dominant personality. His love of black and white films and some of the language and word choice given to him has a very classic feel where he easily could have been a PI from a Hammett novel. Some of the details run a little affected and slightly fake, but the story is absorbing and engaging enough these shouldn’t bother very much.
The interaction between the men was wonderful and enthralling, equally so with the murder mystery. Interestingly the author chose to keep almost all of the sex scenes behind closed doors or with an extreme minimum of detail. This was a great choice as it only added to the allure of the story but it’s not a choice often seen in this field populated with so much erotica. The closed door technique which is used on all BDSM scenes and even most of the tame sex scenes may leave readers wanting more, but it works well with the story and adds a level of heat, sensuality, and sexuality that explicit language would lack. The writing itself has some problems with awkwardness, more noticeable in the later part of the story but again; I’d be surprised if many readers felt this was a detriment. I recognized the issues but they didn’t detract from the story at all in my opinion. If you have issues with first person, you may be more bothered than I was.
Overall, this is another wonderful story from Brown. Her attention to detail is some of the best I’ve seen and the story is captivating. The murder is just as important as the daily details, city setting and ultimately the relationship, which gives a very balanced book with some great characters. The slight problems I found are likely to be reader preference and some will be more bothered than others but I can’t imagine anyone not enjoying this book. I easily recommend it and you should read it.
Get it HERE!