“The sweetest smiles hold the darkest secrets…” ― Sara Shepard
Author: JL Merrow
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Pages/Word Count: 357 Pages
Rating: 5 Stars
Blurb: If you dig up the past, be prepared to get dirty.
It hasn’t been all smooth sailing since plumber Tom Paretski and P.I. Phil Morrison became connected at the heart, if not always at Tom’s dodgy hip. Neither of their families has been shy about voicing their disapproval, which hasn’t helped Tom’s uneasy relationship with his prickly older sister, Cherry.
But when Cherry is poisoned at her own engagement party, the horror of her near death has Tom’s head spinning with possible culprits. Is it her fiance Gregory, a cathedral canon with an unfortunate manner and an alarming taste for taxidermy? Someone from her old writers’ circle, which she left after a row? Or could the attack be connected to her work as a barrister?
Phil is just as desperate to solve the case before someone ends up dead-and he fears it could be Tom. At least one of their suspects has a dark secret to hide, which makes Tom’s sixth sense for finding things like a target painted on his back…
Warning: Contains a strong, silent, macho PI; a cheeky, chirpy, cat-owning plumber; and a gag gift from beyond the grave that’ll put the cat firmly among the pigeons.
Review: First things first: just because this is a completely new mystery in The Plumber’s Mate series, don’t think you can step right into Tom Paretski and Phil Morrison’s lives with Relief Valve. You’ve got to read Pressure Head first, not only because it’s a great book but also because you’ve got to treat yourself to Tom and Phil’s backstory. Trust me: to know them is to adore them.
JL Merrow sat down at her computer, and with malice aforethought, murder she wrote—attempted murder too!—and this time around, it hits very close to home for Tom, the man who has a “thing”, his thing being he can find hidden things, the only thing being those things have to have been deliberately hidden in order for him to find them. It’s a thing. And he finds his very own, very personal hidden thing in this installment of the series, which will be interesting to see how much of a thing it becomes as the series moves forward.
When Tom’s sister Cherry is poisoned right under God’s very nose at her own engagement party, we’re offered a whole slew of suspects to choose from, including her ecclesiastical fiancé, who may or may not be a little bit creepy. It’s hard to say for sure since we’re getting our take on him from Tom’s point of view, and Tom’s…well…Tom. He can charm the pants off just about anyone (figuratively speaking. Phil, literally speaking), but when it comes to discerning who and who isn’t capable of murder, he doesn’t give the reader a whole lot of faith that he’s ready to step in and take over Phil’s job anytime soon. What he does do, however, thanks to JL Merrow’s wit and delivery, is make us belly laugh our way through an investigation that’s peppered with a whole host of colorful characters. Not only that, but I’m now thoroughly convinced I speak nothing resembling English, which, for an anglophile like me, is so much of the fun of immersing myself in Tom and Phil’s world.
Alongside the mystery, Tom and Phil are still in the phase of their relationship that comes after the “hey, let’s try this boyfriends thing” stage but before the “honeymoon phase”. Heck, they’re still trying to figure out what to call each other; not their names, obviously, but boyfriend seems to work just fine. Wanker and git sometimes work too. And it also doesn’t mean that they know at all whether they’re comfortable making any hard and fast declarations of commitment. JL Merrow has written this relationship so realistically, with all the qualifying questions and uncertainties of its newness, that Tom and Phil’s feelings are often a mystery to the other. If you’re looking for hearts and flowers shmoop and sweeping declarations of everlasting love, don’t look here. What you will find, though, are a couple of blokes who’re still feeling their way around each other…and that’s the fun and sexy part, all that groping.
So, grab yourself a biccie and a cuppa, come for the mystery, stay for the humor, and enjoy this installment of the series for the murderous plot that only an author with a penchant for premeditated shenanigans could craft.