I Hear They Burn for Murder by J L Aarne
Rating: 5 Stars
Publisher: Self Published
Tags: Gay MCs, Serial Killer, FBI Agent, Love, **Taboo – Twincest, Brocest. **Warning Tags – Very Descriptive Violence, Torture, Murder, Cannibalism, Gore, Discussions of Rape. Mental Health, Psychological, Edgy, Humour, Contemporary Setting, Slight Paranormal Aspects – Shifters, Series
Length: 551 Pages
Reviewer: Kazza K
Purchase At: amazon.com
“We’re playing Murder in the Dark, Agent.”
Special Agent Ezekiel Herod knows the game well, but he’s never played it quite like this before.
Rainer Bryssengur is only a professor of English and Ezekiel doesn’t expect to gain any insight from him into his case, only to cross him off the list as a person of interest. Then he meets him and gets a glimpse behind the carefully crafted mask Rainer wears every day to the monster he is at heart.
“Which one of us is the liar?”
Sometimes even a psychopathic serial killer gets tired of killing people and that’s where Rainer is when Ezekiel walks into his office and stirs things up. The serial killer the media has dubbed The Lamplighter has been dormant because Rainer’s heart just isn’t in it anymore. But Ezekiel presents him with a new opportunity, a challenge… a game. Rainer sees in him the perfect adversary.
They’re more alike than either of them suspect and soon Ezekiel gets pulled in deeper than he thought possible, past the point of no return.
“Which one of us isn’t? That’s the real question.”
This book starts with a bang. I can’t describe it any other way. Bam. In you face violence and in your face serial killer mentality and behaviour, including being with a victim who has been randomly chosen and is being toyed with and tortured. If this does not sound like you, turn back now.
The book doesn’t start out edgy for a hook and then calm down. It’s balls to the wall and unrepentant writing throughout. The murder in the book is paced well in amongst brilliant characterisations, humour and interesting life moments, including friends and brothers, but when it’s intense, it is very intense and totally unapologetic – see tags above.
Rainer Bryssengur is a respected English professor. Although he comes from a privileged background he lives in a modest unit, drives a Dodge Dart, and his students seem to like their attractive lecturer. To most people he appears like an average guy. However, when things don’t go well or people get in his space for too long, annoy him, he has his off, reactive moments. Right from the get-go, quite brutally, you know that Rainer is a serial killer. He has two serial killer monikers – The Lamplighter and Ripper Copycat Killer, not that anyone knows it’s him. Not at this point. Two years ago he had a pretty lively ‘Ripper’ spree and one of the missing women comes from a wealthy family who eventually pull strings to get the cold case sent to the FBI for investigation. Enter Ezekiel Herod, an FBI psychological profiler. Ezekiel doubts anyone at the university will offer up anything new, they were all interviewed two years ago and dismissed as suspects, but once he speaks to Professor Bryssengur that thought changes.
There was something deeply, fundamentally wrong about Rainer Bryssengur. It wasn’t anything he could put his finger on, nothing that would justify an arrest or even further investigation, but Ezekiel had been hunting bad men a long time and Rainer set off some of those same old internal alarm bells.
When Ezekiel has his spidey senses go off, it takes Rainer all of one second to know that Ezekiel knows who he is and what he does. Rather than scare Rainer, it fascinates him. Just when killing seems to be tedious, having an FBI profiler interested adds a whole new dimension. Ezekiel knows Rainer is sharp and methodical, he doesn’t break a sweat or give an inch, his crime scenes leave nothing to go on – and that’s with the bodies he wants to make a public statement with. If he doesn’t want someone to be found no one will ever know what happened to them and no one does.
Rainer has three good friends, two of those are the eccentric, filthy rich and snobby Elijah and his wife, Erzsé. It’s not that Rainer went looking for them or contacts them much, if at all. He doesn’t have time for most people, but they have taken a shine to Rainer ever since Rainer killed someone Elijah was going to kill and Elijah admired his handy work. Elijah and Erzsé decide to renovate Rainer’s ‘drab’ unit, he doesn’t care as long as they don’t bother him too much while they do it. They feed him from time to time when Thomas doesn’t, wonder why he would do something so mundane as actually working when he comes from a well-to-do family, and they all enjoy being able to freely talk serial killer shop. The third friend is Rainer’s work colleague, initial mentor and former (casual) lover, Cosra Melmoth. Cosra is an alcoholic English professor, also author, with a totally jaded outlook on life and surly attitude toward students. He’s a shifter, which is mentioned ever so briefly when Ezekiel questions him about Rainer. Rainer’s and Cosra’s shared love of, and snobbery over, English, recent ex lover status, and in synch, flat-line world view means they get along well, guaranteeing Cosra a rare place of reasonable import in Rainer’s life.
Then there’s Thomas, Rainer’s brother. As much as a psychopath can love someone, apart from themselves, Rainer loves Thomas, and Thomas reciprocates in kind. They live separately but have a standing date every Friday night at Thomas’ upmarket restaurant, and they hook up on other occasions during the week… and they don’t care who sees or knows they’re an item.
“Rainer, sweetheart, what exactly is the nature of your relationship with your big brother? If you don’t mind us asking, I mean. I don’t want to be rude, of course.”
“Intimate,” Rainer said simply and without shame. “Extremely intimate.”
But, for a while, Thomas has a girlfriend, Jasmine. Rainer doesn’t like it but if he doesn’t see them together he can basically pretend to deal with it – until he can’t. Rainer is nothing if not irrationally territorial. His territorial nature combined with his disorder stirs up impulsive behaviour that is (always going to be) disproportionate to the circumstances. It rears its head when he walks into Thomas’ house at three one morning and finds Jasmine asleep next to Thomas when he feels like being next to Thomas. To say he pitches a total fit is an understatement.
“Thomas, you let me go right now,” Rainer snapped, pushing against him.
“No,” Thomas said. “No, I don’t think so. Jasmine, get your shit and get the fuck out.”
She stared at him. “You’re not serious.”
“I am serious,” Thomas said. “Get out!”
Rainer shouted at her. “Get out now! Leave, you fucking whore!”
“I liked her, you know,” he said of Jasmine.
“I hate her,” Rainer said. “I thought about killing her before.”
“Well, thanks for not doing that,” Thomas said.
“I still might,” Rainer said. “I hate her. She might come back. I will kill her if she comes back, Thomas. I will.”
Meanwhile, Ezekiel is getting more of a profile on Rainer. It’s not much but enough for him to have some direction. He pokes the beehive here and there, drops body parts he’s worked out Rainer has eaten, and whose, to Rainer, but Rainer isn’t going to slip up or confess. It interests him more. What does happen is they enter an indirect, verbal contract, an understanding. It’s now game on for Rainer and hunting time for the alpha Ezekiel. Ezekiel likes to win games. Especially fascinating games with a man who revels in teasing someone clearly wanting so much to be teased.
“Let’s assume for the sake of argument that I am this killer you’re after,” he said. “What right would I have to be mad about it? I know the rules, so why the sour grapes? When you walk down my streets, you know the risk you’re taking. You could die. If I walk down yours and you catch me? It’s the risk I take. That’s the game.”
“Murder in the Dark,” Ezekiel said.
Rainer nodded. “Catch me if you can,” he said, light and taunting.
Both men are having their individual bouts of ennui. Ezekiel has been around for over one hundred years – he’s a shifter – and he’s grown tired of the usual people and the same-same suspect behaviour. He also has a way of dealing with some who think they’re above the law. Rainer’s serial killings had dropped off somewhat… until Special Agent Herod walks into his office and offers something tantalising and intriguing. Murder is so much more fun with someone smart and determined trying to watch your every move. Particularly when you totally believe you can outsmart them all the way. Interestingly, there are a lot of shifters in this book, Ezekiel and Jacob included, Rainer seems completely oblivious to the sea of different shifters around him. This arc is only getting started. It’s subtle at this stage but the book ends in such a way that it definitely appears it will play a bigger part in book #2.
Just as Rainer sleeps with his older brother, Ezekiel sleeps with his dizygotic twin, Jacob. Where Ezekiel is more aggressive by nature, more swarthy, Jacob tends toward patience and androgyny. Where the Bryssengur brothers are out, Ezekiel refuses to acknowledge his relationship with Jacob outside the four walls of their home. But Ezekiel and Jacob have a very domestic existence where Jacob cooks, makes healthy lunches for an often unappreciative Ezekiel, and generally keeps house. When Ezekiel is his own worst enemy and doesn’t sleep for a week, and is ready to drop, Jacob makes sure he gets him to bed. Jacob has suffered two major traumas, the last one closely related to something personal which triggered a full break, including delusions. While a lot better, he still cannot work outside of a rare FBI consult – he’s a doctor of psychology and a former Bureau profiler, which doesn’t mesh when you are not working at full emotional capacity. Ezekiel always watches out for Jacob, protects him, loves him, but their relationship is intense and closeted. Ezekiel can be a bastard about it too.
“What, you want to go out and hold hands? You want to go out dancing?” Ezekiel sneered. “Maybe we can kiss in the park and, you know, really get my ass fired. Jesus Christ, Jacob. You can’t be with me, we’ve been over this.” He smirked. “Go change your tampon and fucking get over it.”
Ezekiel is feeling under pressure in his relationship with Jacob. As much as he loves him he also resents him. The more he’s enmeshed in this serial killer game, the more he’s engrossed with Rainer Bryssungur. Only Jacob doesn’t know about Rainer. Wonders why Ezekiel is so preoccupied and isn’t at home at night much anymore. Ezekiel lies by omission to Jacob – it’s the case, it’s the team he’s leading up, it’s the pressure of the parents, but it’s so much more than the sum of those parts he gives to Jacob. It’s an obsession with Rainer Bryssungur that has Ezekiel staying away at nights. But Ezekiel doesn’t share anything about Jacob with Rainer either. Rainer does not know Jacob exists. He suspects there is someone but doesn’t know for sure. Doesn’t care – at this point. Once Rainer feels it’s important, or he’ll get an advantage in the game, look out. I imagine this is something that will explode next book.
He did not want to discuss Jacob with Rainer. He didn’t owe Rainer anything, especially not yet, and Jacob was separate; sacred. Jacob was his and discussing him with Rainer would indicate a level of intimacy and trust that Ezekiel was not comfortable with. If Rainer pushed him about why, Ezekiel would have to shoot him down.
When the stakeouts start, and they’re mostly unofficial because nobody has a thing on Bryssungur, Ezekiel follows Rainer, and Rainer knows Ezekiel is there and makes it be known he does. When Ezekiel stops trailing him on occasion, Rainer feels the need to kill again to gain his attention. Eventually Rainer starts inviting Ezekiel into his apartment. Ezekiel is resistant at first but the longer it goes on, the more Rainer taunts and teases, the more they find familiar ground, shared humour, chemistry, the more they become closer and closer still. Ezekiel can tell himself that maybe he’ll find some clues in the apartment to make it easier to put Rainer away, that he’s 100% professional, but that flies out the door. Still, the game does not end because of this. It’s something they both want to win. They get so close that Ezekiel knows about Rainer’s neighbours and the douche who’s out of prison and moved in to live with his ex wife. He bullies his son, Caleb, he picks an argument or two with Rainer. Mistake. When Caleb’s dad ends up dead Ezekiel knows who did it but he doesn’t care. Rainer and Ezekiel have a good time watching crime shows together of a night – various Law & Order, CSI, and NCIS included, and they both can’t wait for and love the improbable confession time on whatever show they watch. The dead neighbour means no loud noises interrupting TV confession time anymore.
I have already written a long review yet there is much I have left off; like Ezekiel’s computer hacker buddy Sol, and Sol and Ezekiel’s wonderfully odd friends. There is an intersection between Ezekiel’s friends – and his coke dealer – and Rainer’s students, which blends believably and adds further interest. The crazy documentary inner voice Ezekiel has going on from time to time is also amusing. Like I mentioned earlier, the shifter arc is really muted in this book. I like it and I think, I hope, it will ramp up further next book, adding a new dimension and another layer. The cat and mouse between serial killer and FBI agent is just getting into full swing, as is their friendship – for want of a better word – and their scorching but twisted chemistry, but all the chemistry in this book is delightfully and disturbingly twisted and white hot.
I want the next book as of yesterday. I loved these characters and I want to know where they’re going and I want to be back in their world as soon as possible. I did ask J L Aarne about the release date for book#2 and they were kind enough to email me to say that it’s being written but there is no concrete time for release at this date. Hopefully by the end of this year. With the ending being a true cliff hanger it really is important to have the next book sooner rather than later. Here’s hoping.
I Hear They Burn for Murder is one of the best books I’ve picked up. It isn’t perfect, there are some repetitive words, and that ending is frustrating without a second book to back it up. However, the characters in this book sing to me. The few niggles I may have are outweighed by the fact that this is top notch storytelling and addictive writing. You have to be okay with the dark content and taboo nature of this book because it is very edgy – seriously heed the tags. If you are interested grab it, but I’m adding this caveat – maybe wait until book #2 is close to release or is actually released then power through both.
This book is gritty, funny, dark, sexy, taboo and boundary pushing, and it’s often hard to see who is on what side of the frayed line of the law. Who’s on the right side. Rainer and Ezekiel both have darkness to them. All the characters are offbeat but utterly believable. The author has done an excellent job conveying obsession, a twisted game, and a three dimensional psychopath. The writing does not contain the usual Google search laundry list of psychopathy, there are eerily real pieces to Rainer, and also Ezekiel – someone who has questionable morality, as do Thomas, Elijah and Erzsé. This adds a wonderful depth and dimension to the overall story, but the interpersonal play between Rainer and Ezekiel, the relationships between the two sets of brothers, is something I can’t wait to get back into again as soon as possible. This series is shaping up to be one hell of a ride. I loved this book. 5 Stars!