Harm’s Way by Geoffrey Knight
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I was intrigued by the blurb and not sure what to expect. This isn’t romance, more like a murder mystery, yet very absorbing. In fact I practically sped-read it wanting to find out what happens. While the writing is very good and the concept unique and eye-catching, I’m not sure what I think of the story as a whole. It’s fascinating and makes you think, so for that alone I’d recommend it. However I didn’t always like the characters or like the book itself, probably the actions themselves that turned me off more than anything. I’m glad I read this but wouldn’t read it again.
Without going into too much detail or giving away any spoilers, the plot revolves around Zach Taylor, a successful businessman about to have a very bad day. Zach is in the middle of delicate negotiations with a high profile account he’s trying to land and he’s willing to go to any lengths to make the deal happen, even if it means sleeping with the executive. However when Zach wakes up the next morning, he has no memory of the night before or where the suddenly missing executive could be. Complicating matters, Zach comes to find out that he’s the biological son of a serial murder and is worried that such evil may be passed down.
To start, the concept and execution are very well done. The murder mystery and question of both Zach’s sanity and his capabilities – is he a murderer too? – are engaging and absorbing from the start. The story keeps you guessing about what really happened, how it all happened, and what it all means. There aren’t really enough clues, in my opinion, to figure out the numerous twists before they happen. The story does explain everything and show how each event really happened, connecting so many seeming coincidences in an elegant way. Yet I never guessed any twist. I simply had to be along for the ride, wide eyed at each new turn.
Part of this is due to the superior writing. The prose is crisp and while not entirely clean, it does offer a real sense of drama and emotion. The writing sets a wonderfully creepy tone with just a few well-chosen words. I was horrified and fascinated from start to finish. The characters are well developed, even though most are purposefully kept somewhat vague. The point of the story is never to fully know any character because none of them really truly know themselves either. The narrator, Zach, is struggling to figure out exactly who and what he is so the reader likewise is taking the same journey.
I only had a few qualms with this well written and decidedly creepy story. The first is that the story never really explores why Zach was given up for adoption/foster care. Given the later revelations about his parents, I never understood the reasoning. The second is that while I quite appreciated the late in the story twist regarding what really happened when Zach was a kid, it never rang quite true. In some ways it’s a stroke of genius that I never saw coming – though I admit I should have, but I was too absorbed in the story itself. But this twist also never really fits with existing information. My final issue is that the actions and sometimes gruesome details bothered me. This is an entirely personal reaction and it always happens whenever particularly cruel or bloody deaths are described.
Despite these few issues, the story is very interesting and worth reading. It’s not quite what I expected, though I don’t think I even knew what to expect. I find Knight’s writing to be engaging and always thought provoking . The editing is a bit haphazard and I noticed several mistakes but they didn’t detract from my reading enjoyment as I could easily figure out what the story meant to say. While unreliable narrators can sometimes be a bit stressful to read, never knowing what is real, I find this one definitely kept my attention. I truly wanted to know what would happen and how it would play it out. I’d recommend it to murder mystery m/m fans (there are graphic sex scenes) as I’m glad I read it but I wouldn’t want to revisit this creepy tale.