Fear not for the future, weep not for the past – Percy Bysshe Shelley
I have a savior complex. No, not the kind where I think I’m the Messiah or something. I’m talking about the kind of savior complex where I think, “Oh look, a book about a couple of damaged men who have to overcome a tragedy and a broken past so they can fall in love. I can fix that.” And then I buy said book and think, “Phew, good thing the author did all the work for me so I could sit back and fall in love with the men in the book who overcome a tragedy and a broken past and fall in love with each other.” It’s such a great relationship we readers have with these writerly types, isn’t it? It’s like being a second-hand savior, which is so much less work.
Z.A. Maxfield has begun another series, as if I weren’t already obsessed enough with that of the St. Nacho’s variety, but now I get to start obsessing all over again on a new one, The Brothers Grime, and the first book, Grime and Punishment, the story of ex-firefighter Jack Masterson, a man whose disability suffered in the line of duty has forced him to leave the job he loved and turn his talents in a new direction—crime scene clean up.
Jack doesn’t do much field work himself these days, having become successful enough to hire a team of workers to handle the hands-on part of the business. But when his friend, sometimes buddy-with-bennies, and full-time closeted police officer Dave Huntley, calls with the news that Nick Foasberg has committed suicide, well, Jack has no choice but to rush to the scene. Love and loss and lies and pain and a purgatory of self-denial have an uncanny way of motivating a man to revisit a past he’s never overcome.
Ryan Halloran did what he could to help his cousin, but there’s only so far a man can go before every effort merely ends up leading one step closer to the inevitable. Nick committing suicide in Ryan’s bathroom stole the man’s home and sense of security from him, which is why Ryan needs what Jack is there to offer—his company’s talent for erasing the stains of violence left behind for the survivor to bear. It’s not as easy a decision as it sounds, though, for Ryan to make. See, Ryan knows full well—or at least he thinks he does—the history Jack and Nick shared. But when the past comes clean with all its secrets and truths, secrets and truths that weren’t anyone’s but Nick’s to tell, they threaten to collapse the bridge the two men have begun to build between the past and the present.
Grime and Punishment is a story of redemption and second chances in all its humanly complicated finery, especially if you love flawed characters who seem determined to keep wrecking their own chances at peace. Not only is there plenty of emotional substance to sink your heart into, but there’s also the very simple fact that ZAM has come up with another great couple of MCs whose verbal skills rival the non-verbal for a practically perfect validation that they should continue to investigate what’s happening between them. There’s also the added benefit of a potentially interesting character in Dave Huntley, which, when all’s said and done, has put me on full alert for round two.