Suspicious Behavior (Bad Behavior #2), L A Witt and Cari Z
Rating: 5 Stars
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Genre: Gay Romance Crime
Tags: Detectives, Crime, Mystery, Age Gap, Health Issues, Family, Humour, Contemporary Setting, Series #2
Length: 283 Pages
Reviewer: Kazza K
Purchase At: amazon.com, Riptide Publishing (Aug 21st Release)
Detective Darren Corliss is hanging by a thread. In between recovering from a near-fatal wound and returning to work at a hostile precinct, he’s struggling to help care for his ailing brother. His partner and boyfriend, Detective Andreas Ruffner, wants to help, but doesn’t know how. And with his own family crises brewing, Andreas is spread almost as thin as Darren.
For cops, though, life takes a backseat to the job. When a stack of unsolved homicides drops into their laps, Andreas and Darren think they’re unrelated cold cases. But when a connection surfaces, they find themselves on the tail of a prolific serial killer who’s about to strike again.
Except they’ve got nothing. No leads. No suspects. Just a pile of circumstantial evidence and a whole lot of hunches. Time is running out to stop the next murder—and to pull themselves back from their breaking points.
** BEST TO HAVE READ BOOK #1 BEFORE THIS REVIEW
Suspicious Behavior picks up from where Risky Behavior left off : Detective Darren Corliss is at the tail-end of recovery from a life threatening injury sustained during the last case, and there is a lot of heat on him and (definitely) Andreas at their station. When Chief Singh from the thirty second precinct offers them case files that, ironically, Detective Newberry was working on before Ruffner and Corliss busted him as a dirty cop, they jump at the chance to work a case, especially homicide. The staff at the thirty second are just as overtly hostile, it’s where Newberry and more than a few of his cronies were stationed, but Singh needs someone else to get results as her remaining detectives are busy. However, as more police are arrested and jailed, cops families impacted after the fallout from Ruffner’s and Corliss’ investigation, Andreas is hated that bit harder and that bit more. Darren, only because he’s a newbie, is not far behind him in the outright disdain stakes though. Plenty of petty – but escalating – passive-aggressive behaviour is going on inside and outside the station. Doesn’t matter that cops were dirty and/or involved in people’s deaths, the MCs are copping flack, every which way, because they’re seen as snitches.
On top of a recent week from hell, Andreas’ daughter Erin, who is interning in IA, hears rumours about her father being a drug addict – that old department chestnut – and that he has HIV – that one’s true. Erin is upset that he hasn’t told anyone – not her, none of her siblings, or her mother (his ex wife.) He’s also a closeted bisexual man and doesn’t want to talk to his daughter about that either. To be honest, I’m not sure how Andreas ever thought Erin wouldn’t hear rumours working at IA, the precinct is full of them and has been for years regarding him. People don’t like Andreas, so being spiteful is easy. It’s hard for him to talk to Erin, or his other older children, about private matters, things he feels ashamed of, as in unprotected sex and wild post separation times from their mother, and that includes contracting HIV, but it would be better than them hearing details from others. He also doesn’t want Erin or his work colleagues knowing that he’s in a relationship with his detective partner because that will heap more crap on them at an already difficult time.
Darren’s personal torment is so much more devastating. God… Asher’s early onset Familial Alzheimer’s has deteriorated after Darren spent a month in hospital recovering from his injuries, and it was heartbreaking to observe. I understood why Darren was so angry with Melissa, his ex sister-in-law, leaving six months post Asher’s diagnosis. Darren is hurting because this is happening to his brother, someone he loves and is close to. Someone he’s missing talking to and confiding in. His brother, who is rapidly less and less lucid and now can’t even be introduced to Andreas for fear of a strange person/face upsetting him. That he could be going though this next. He doesn’t want to inflict that on his family or Andreas. It creates genuine fear. I hurt for Asher when Darren was angry and made it clear he’s divorced from Melissa, especially when Asher has been fixating on Melissa of late, still believing they are married and living together. But I understood his logic and his outburst. Alzheimer’s creates grief even while that person is still alive. It’s a bitch of a disease, and these parts were written like someone intimately understood the nuclear family dynamic of Alzheimer’s and all the stressful outcomes.
I really wished I could tell Asher about Andreas. More than anything, I wanted to be able to share that I’d found someone who was actually worth a damn, not like all the boyfriends I’d run through in college.
Andreas wants to be there for Darren but isn’t sure what to do. He’s never been good with closeness and relationships before but now he wants to be that person who supports the man he works with, but mostly to support the man he loves. He just isn’t sure he knows how to go about helping and if he’ll be any good at it. He undersells his abilities, that’s what I’ll say about Andreas.
Meanwhile, they’re working the serial killer case, and Darren finds a pattern in Newberry’s case notes that Newberry missed. It’s easier to notice details when you’re actually doing your job, and you read all the notes concurrently.
They have two days to find a serial killer who appears to select a victim based on age and a correlating date of the month. When the next body turns up they have another ten days – based on the pattern – so the clock is urgently ticking. They are two men working a case with nearly twenty deaths. Luckily Paula Morris, another detective and a friend of Andreas’, steps in to help. Erin is still interning in IA and they get permission to have her go over the case notes with a fresh set of eyes while they’re out in the field. After Erin finds another common denominator they feel fairly sure they have the guy they want, one who fits a certain profile. However, everything is circumstantial so their hands are tied and all they can do is investigate, ask questions and try and rattle some cages.
I couldn’t remember ever working a case where I had known the identity of the criminal and not been able to arrest them. Admittedly, I hadn’t been a detective very long, but even back when I was a beat cop, things had never been this frustrating.
What I Enjoyed:
The detective work is really good, I found this case to be equally as gripping and interesting as book #1. They’re dealing with a person who manages to kill and play people right under the cop’s noses, all while fooling a lot of people. The crazy police code means colleagues are more interested in fucking Ruffner and Corliss over for doing their jobs than actually helping them on a homicide case. I also felt for one person in the crosshairs. Do the ends justify the means? I don’t always think so, but I can’t say anything more without spoilers.
The different arcs work well together. Darren and Andreas both have personal problems. They are building a relationship together under immense scrutiny and not with a great deal of support. Their relationship has grown into something deeper now, past limerence into intensified feelings. Their working partnership is now one of concomitance, and total trust is given from both sides. Initially, in book #1, it was rocky and more combatant because of Ruffner’s secrecy borne out of his history on the force.
There is not much steam in this book. No sex whilst in a shootout with a killer, no magic dick when your brother is dying before your eyes. They try to get started a couple of times but family and work, exhaustion, interfere. When your life is beyond frantic and immensely complicated, and you are so physically and emotionally spent because if it, let’s be real, something has to give. Here it was (believably) sex. Yet they do manage on a rare occasion to have sexual intimacy, which felt natural. I found this book very romantic. It’s the little things that make a relationship important, like someone thinking of easing your load by making sure you eat, or listening to you, understanding when you need quiet time. Being incredibly loyal. Asking how you’re feeling, if there is anything they can do. Giving support at the right times.
I was supposed to be the reasonable one, and yet I’d come closer to losing my shit last night than I’d ever seen Andreas get. And he’d handled me like a pro. Like a friend, like a lover.
Putting your badge down and helping your partner out when his family need it, even though you could be in trouble.
It was nice to see Andreas with two of his children. Erin is from his initial marriage, and four year old Emily is from his time with Lisa, his ex girlfriend. Darren got into the spirit of having Andreas’ family around too, seeing how gruff Detective Ruffner is with his kids was something that gave him moments of happiness.
“Darren and me drawed you pictures. This one is my tiger,” she thrust the first one at him, and he took it with an appreciative ooh. He was cooing at his baby, oh my God. I wanted to pull out my phone and preserve the scene forever.
Both of these authors are good in their own right but together they form a well-oiled writing duo. Everything about this series thus far is wonderfully cohesive. The dual POV was necessary in book #1 and even more so in this book. The way Andreas cares about Darren, that Darren is close to an emotional tipping point, is what made this worth every star. For as much as I loved the detective work, and it’s more than enough to keep you on the edge of your seat throughout, and I enjoyed seeing more of Andreas’ daughter Erin, who is a breath of fresh air, and that the Corliss family are also amazing. It’s the sum total of everything together that makes this such a good series so far, but the development of the personal partnership between Andreas and Darren was what escalated this book. It is perfect for book #2 and where they’re at in their relationship – particularly given everything else that has happened and is happening, and that this is still very much a crime novel. Also, that realisation that no one is going to bail on the other is a revelation for both men, whether that be work related or personal.
Suspicious Behavior is so well executed, believably raw and emotional with a well written homicide case. I loved it. The personal lives of Andreas and Darren weaved effortlessly yet importantly through the case and their work – life is like that, nothing about anyone ever exists in a vacuum and most of us have something going on – L A Witt and Cari Z seem to get that. No more to say. 5 Stars!
ARC supplied in return for an honest review.
I love a good murder mystery, as you know, especially if it keeps me on the edge of my seat as I’m reading it. But it sounds like this is so much more than that. I know that I would absolutely adore Andreas and Darren and my heart would break a little over Asher.
Great review. The visuals and quotes are perfect.
It’s great to have this as a gay crime romance series, so hard to find, especially one of this quality. So far so good and the next book can’t come quick enough for me. Everything works really well and the MCs are terrific.
Asher breaks my heart. Alzheimer’s is so cruel when you’re older, but when you’re young? No… 🙁 I watched a very good documentary about early onset FAD recently. It was so sobering and devastating, and some people are just amazing.
Thanks, Cindi 🙂