Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Tallowwood by N.R. Walker

Cold cases, murder, lies, and an unimaginable truth.

Sydney detective August Shaw has spent the last decade of work solving cold cases. Since the death of his boyfriend eight years ago, August works alone, lives alone, is alone — and that’s exactly how he likes it. His work is his entire life, and he’s convinced a string of unsolved cold-case suicides are linked to what could be Australia’s worst ever serial killer. Problem is, no one believes him.

Senior Constable Jacob Porter loves his life in the small town of Tallowwood in the middle of the rainforests in northern New South Wales. He runs summer camps for the local Indigenous kids, plays rugby with his mates, has a close family, and he’s the local LGBTQIA+ Liaison and the Indigenous Liaison Officer.

When human remains are found in the camping grounds at Tallowwood Reserve, Jake’s new case turns out to be linked to August’s cold cases, and Jake agrees they’re not suicides at all. With Jacob now firmly in August’s corner, they face one hurdle after another, even when more remains are found, they still can’t seem to gain ground.

But when the body of a fellow police officer turns up under the same MO, it can’t be ignored anymore. August and Jake must trace the untraceable before the killer takes his next victim or before he stops one of them, permanently.

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(August and Jacob have just been given the identity of a man who was found deceased. They’re about to inform the family)

Two hours later, they sat in the car in a quiet suburban street in Cronulla. They had a name, the case file, and the address of the parents and were about to drop a bombshell on the guy’s family. Tristan Kurtz was twenty-six years old when he was reported missing by his mother, when he never arrived home in Sydney from an LGBTQIA+ music festival in Byron Bay. He’d reportedly hitchhiked from Byron Bay to Coffs Harbour, having travelled with local residents who he’d met at the festival, and had given him a lift. The missing person’s report had said Kurtz was dropped off in the main street, and had waved them off. He was later seen on CCTV footage walking toward the highway, at 8:11pm.

He never arrived at his parents’ house, he never contacted them to say his plans had changed, which was out of character for him. His parents had called everyone he knew—friends, workmates, old boyfriends—to no avail, and twenty-four hours later he was reported as a missing person.

Well, he wasn’t missing anymore.

He was only twenty-six. A kid, August thought, with his whole life in front of him. A life stolen, stripped away, and thrown away like garbage.

August stared at the house and sighed. He was spread too thin, he was stretched as far as his skin would allow. Another murder, another gay man slaughtered for no other reason than pure bigotry and disregard for human life. “I hate this. I hate everything about it.”

Jacob was quiet for so long, August looked over at him. “Yeah, me too,” he said flatly. He was reading through Tristan’s file. He finally closed the folder and met August’s gaze. “We need to find this bastard.”

“We do.”

“We need to see his parents and tell them.” Jacob looked over at the house and frowned. “Fuck, I hate this part.”

“Yeah. Me too.”

Neither of them made a move to get out of the car. “Is it better to know?” Jacob asked quietly. “Is it better to find out what happened, for closure? Or is it worse, because when you don’t know you still have hope?”

August was pretty sure it was supposed to be a rhetorical question, but it was one he knew the answer to. “It’s better to know. In the long run.” He cleared his throat. “Hope can break your heart every day for years, and living with false hope is hell on earth.”

Jacob stared at him, and August wondered if he’d said too much. But Jacob nodded and unclipped his seatbelt. “Then we shouldn’t wait another minute.”

August got out of the car and together they walked up to the front door and rang the bell. They’d called ahead, so they were expected, but when a tall, middle-aged man opened the door to greet them, Jacob took off his hat and with that single gesture, the man nodded and began to cry.

Hope was a cruel and brutal thing.

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Fantastic and enthralling are words I would use to describe Tallowwood. Cold case Detective August Shaw has shut himself off from life. He lives alone and has as little interaction with people as possible, including his fellow police officers. His life of hiding away ends when he is called to the small town of Tallowwood by Senior Constable Jacob (Jake) Porter after the discovery of a body linked to one of August’s cold cases.

August and Jake are like night and day. August is a grouchy, anti-social, and serious. Jake is happy, outgoing, small town cop, active in his community where he is well loved. The two men work well together on the job, and off the job their personal relationship quickly grows.

Tallowwood blends the search for Australia’s most prolific serial killer with romance perfectly. The balance between crime and love is just right. The hunt of the killer is made more difficult by a police command not taking the case seriously and putting roadblocks in their way. The tension builds as the story progresses and several times things happened that shocked me, and I snapped the Kindle shut in surprise. I had to pause for a minute to get myself together before I could go on reading. It builds up to a heart stopping conclusion that I was pleased I didn’t see coming.

I seriously can’t say enough good things about this story. It is brilliant and I was captivated by it. The only disappointing thing for me is it is a standalone. I would have loved for it to be an ongoing series. Spending time with August and Jake solving more crimes in rural New South Wales sounds like great reading to me. Hopefully the author will write more romantic suspense stories in the future.

4.5 stars of mystery, murder and romance

This is a really good story with both a complex mystery and a slow burning, intense romance. It is very cleverly plotted, and the tension builds in both the crime and the passion.

Based in Sydney, August is a man on a mission, certain that there is a serial killer who should be brought to justice, but is thwarted by poor record keeping and an ME who insists on denying a link – even though there are very clear signs of it. When a body is found in Tallowwood with similar signs, he goes to investigate. Meeting local policeman Jacob is going to change his career and his private life forever.

Senior Constable Jacob Porter is happy in his small town, working hard for indigenous and LGBTQIA+ rights, and enjoying playing footie. Little does he expect that the discovery of a long-buried body will result in him meeting a man who definitely has his attention. These cases are going to challenge his detective skills and its investigator is making his way into his heart.

If you enjoy a good mystery with a satisfying touch of romance, then you will find this a very good read.

Just as an aside: At the beginning I had a feeling the book was set in Victorian times, I think probably because August is a wonderfully old fashioned name – but I was soon corrected, and enjoyed it all the more for it being set in the modern day.

N.R. Walker is an Australian author, who loves her genre of gay romance. She loves writing and spends far too much time doing it, but wouldn’t have it any other way.

She is many things: a mother, a wife, a sister, a writer. She has pretty, pretty boys who live in her head, who don’t let her sleep at night unless she gives them life with words.

She likes it when they do dirty, dirty things... but likes it even more when they fall in love.

She used to think having people in her head talking to her was weird, until one day she happened across other writers who told her it was normal.

She’s been writing ever since...

Connect with N.R.

Facebook  ~  Twitter  ~  Instagram  ~  Website  ~  Goodreads

Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Tallowwood by N.R. Walker to read and review.

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