The Elegant Corpse by A.M. Riley
Detective Roger Corso is open about his sexual orientation. He’s less forthcoming about his leather lifestyle. There’s only so much his coworkers can take. He thinks he’s doing a pretty good job of keeping it covert, but then something happen that changes his mind.
Someone delivers an elegantly clothed corpse to his home. His couch to be precise. And that corpse is carrying a leather flogger. Roger’s taking that personally.
Additional distraction comes in the form of the victim’s younger brother Sean. He’s annoying. Knows something about the murder he’s not telling. Wants something from Roger ~ and is everything Roger ever wanted. But before he can make Sean his, he’s going to have to solve the mystery of the elegant corpse.
After reading the summary I wasn’t sure what I was expecting but The Elegant Corpse kept me guessing and wondering throughout. Solidly written with fully realized characters and a fascinating mystery plot that was perfectly matched to the pace of the burgeoning relationship, this story satisfies on all levels. Great main characters blend with a heavy BDSM theme while giving a lovely setting of almost a fading era. The older characters create almost an old guard feeling of their community, something of a time slowly past and never to be recaptured. This almost nostalgic feel sets a beautiful tone to the writing and especially to Roger.
Roger is a wonderfully complex character. Suffering from the death of his partner and submissive five years earlier, he has resigned himself to living alone for the duration of his life. His needs are met with close friends and occasional visits to a local BDSM club with no strings attached relationships. Roger is not looking for someone to fill the empty space in his life, nor is he looking to start over. His life is orderly and held strict within his standards by the sheer force of his will, which is not insubstantial. So when his tightly controlled life is upset by the appearance of a corpse, Roger fears his participation within the leather community will be exposed. He must straddle a thin line of helping both the community and the police in finding the murderer without exposing each to the other. This balancing act is tipped precariously as Roger fights a helpless attraction to the corpse’s younger brother, Sean.
Sean is also a great character as he struggles with an immaturity and lack of confidence that is surprising for his age. Although he’s thirty-two, Sean acts much younger with his nervous gestures, confusion, and easy anger. He is conflicted with his own identity and desires, fighting himself and Roger yet yearning desperately for the control and peace that Roger’s dominance offers. Sean has issues with his childhood and the effect his older brother’s absence had on the family, thus keeping him involved and around Roger despite the older man’s best efforts to distance himself. Sean’s openly needy emotional state sparks something within Roger, as does the challenge Sean constantly presents. Sean may want more than he can articulate but his ignorance and instinctive defensiveness cause him to bounce back and forth from surly to obeying. Thankfully Roger’s steady strength and patience is a perfect match to Sean’s chaotic personality.
Although these two seem to get together quickly, when taking into consideration the actual short time line, the depth of their connection and the complex relationship the author has drawn makes the their time together seem much longer. Similarly the mystery of the corpse and subsequent murders from men involved in the BDSM leather scene is multifaceted and engaging, leaving the reader with the feeling the events take place over a much longer time period than they actually do. Combining both the dull semantics of police work with the fast paced rush of discovery of new murder, the writing and pace kept moving evenly. Delving into the emotional, physical, and mental aspects of the BDSM culture was done remarkably well, showing its multilayered culture. There were enough hints to guess at the final resolution without feeling overly force-fed or an out of the blue suspect. The truly solidly written mystery was just as satisfying and engaging as was the development of Roger and Sean’s relationship.
Mixing the cast of characters from Roger’s police life with his friends from his BDSM side was done wonderfully and showed the dual sides of the man’s life he tried to keep separate. From his partner to his old master, each person added an important element to the story and given their own identity without taking the focus away from the plot and main characters. Peter as Roger’s friend was a sympathetic and remarkably drawn man, one given life along side Roger’s ex-master Jay, who is quietly commanding even wheezing in a wheelchair. I was truly impressed with the author’s ability to meld so many unique elements and characters in a complex and layered plot that hardly missed a beat. The lovely ending showing the healing process Sean and Roger must go through only continued my esteem for the novel, even if the point of view changing was slightly clumsy.
If there were any problems, I’d have to point out the few easy to see errors in writing and/or editing. Frequently the names of Roger’s friend Peter was confused with Roger’s dead lover, Patrick – even within the same dream sequence. This is easy enough to see and should have been corrected as it causes confusion. Additionally there were several hanging sentences and lost words that were noticeable, both of these problems jarring the flow of the writing. While I can easily read over these errors, the name confusion was less so but the strength of the writing and story should be enough to keep you reading. Hopefully in future editions this could be corrected.
Overall, I was impressed with this novel from an unknown (to me) author. The sheer complexity of the plot was well done and the intensity of the relationship made this story one that will stay on my mind for a while. I can easily recommend this story to those who like a strong mystery within a burgeoning heavy BDSM relationship. I look forward to other works by this author.
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