Title : Boy Crucified
Authors : Jerome Wilde
Series : Thomas Noel Mystery, Book #1
Publisher : Dreamspinner Press (BUY HERE)
Genre : M/M, Contemporary
Length : 233 pages (e-book)
Published : June 12, 2013
When the body of a crucified boy is found by the river in Kansas City, Lieutenant Thomas Noel, a priest turned homicide detective, is assigned the case. In their search for the boy’s killer, Noel and his new partner, Daniel Qo, follow the clues to a secretive traditional Catholic group located in the Missouri countryside.
Then another body turns up, and the hunt intensifies. But Noel’s investigation hits too close to home and attracts the attention of the killer…
Thomas Noel (like the Christmas carol) is approaching forty, an avowed Buddhist, survivor of childhood abuse at the hands of his mentally unstable addict mother, homicide detective and ex-Catholic priest. Ever since his partner, Billy, dies five years previously, he’s lived and, preferably, worked alone. Until, that is, he’s landed with a new case and a new partner. Daniel Qo is in his late twenties, freshly minted degree having just graduated top of his class with a PhD in criminology and, at his request, newly partnered with the ‘famous Lieutenant Thomas Noel’ for his first assignment. Daniel has an immediate attraction to the older Thomas and isn’t shy about letting his ‘trailblazing’ partner know it. While Thomas is unashamedly out at work and comfortable with his sexuality, he is a little more reticent to act on the attraction he also felt. But when Daniel insists on looking after him when he gets stabbed in the arm with a dirty syringe after an intense run in with his mother, who was just released from yet another stint in jail, Thomas gives in to both Daniel’s advances and his own attraction to the man.
At the heart of the story is the case of the body of a boy found nailed to planks of wood, crucifixion style. All evidence points to St Konrad’s, a traditional Catholic monastery and boarding school run by His Excellency The Most Reverend Bishop James, self styled ‘last valid Catholic bishop left’ in the “real” Catholic Church. Romance very much takes a backseat to the mystery in this book. To the point where it’s pretty much non-existent. There’s a lot of background on Catholicism as it pertains to the case, but it’s quite well introduced, informative without feeling like it’s an info dump. I also liked the explanations of police procedures. Again, it’s well done and informative without disrupting the pacing or seeming too tedious.
And it really was the mystery aspect that kept me interested, because the characters fell a little flat. As it was written from Thomas’ POV, he is the one we learn the most about, but even what we do learn of him is relatively little and only shown in glimpses that leave more questions than answers. He certainly is full of contradictions. Seemingly comfortable with himself and confident, yet in the narrative there’s a weird mix of euphemisms and bluntness when talking about sex and body parts. It kind of makes sense, I guess, considering the narrator is an ex-Catholic (and priest, at that), and does perhaps go towards showing who Thomas is, his character. However, it doesn’t exactly make for the hottest sex scenes I’ve read. I really couldn’t connect or warm to Daniel at all. For the love interest, he seemed very much relegated to a secondary character status with very little input into the case. I’m not sure I entirely liked Daniel; he often came across as arrogant with no actual skills or knowledge to back it up and zero sensitivity.
The writing is often blunt and certainly doesn’t pull any punches. While it may have been mildly shocking at times, that wasn’t what particularly bothered me. What did, was the fact that apparently the majority of people Thomas worked with were all either incompetent, unlikeable, or both. The only real exceptions to that were the ME and a catholic priest who mentored Thomas when he was younger. The receptionist at the police station in particular was so extreme that it was just unbelievable that someone that dumb, unprofessional and inarticulate would be employed by the police department for a position that is effectively the first point of contact. With another character, there was no explanation or exploration of why he was so different as Brother Boniface than he was as Earl Whitehead. As Boniface, he would never hurt the boys, but as Earl, he raped his nephew for years.
It would have easily been a four plus book if as much attention had been paid to the personal as to the mystery. At one point, the characters, who had previously engaged in safe sex even for blow jobs, suddenly and inexplicably forgo the use of condoms. What about the fact that Thomas was stabbed with a dirty needle a few days previously? It was mentioned at the time that he would need to be tested for HIV. At first, I kind of liked that Thomas was urging Daniel – and by proxy, the reader – to think about it, review the facts, that it’s all there as to who the killer is. I’m pretty terrible at picking up the clues and solving the mystery (I tend to be more a let’s go along for the ride type of reader), so I actually appreciated the encouragement to try and put it all together. However, by the fourth time of the it’s ‘perfectly clear who the killer is’ thing, it was starting to irk me. Since I wasn’t positive of who it was, although I had a rough idea, it just served to make me feel really dumb.
Set in 1997/8 (not sure why, it didn’t have a bearing on the story), I quite enjoyed the mystery. It was well paced and interesting, although there were no real surprises. The characters were a little lacking, especially Daniel, who I felt it would have been nice to get to know better. I’d have liked for there to have been a bit more time given to their development. The sub plot with the mother turning up never really went anywhere and any contribution it may have made to Thomas’ backstory could have been done without her actual presence. There was the odd contradiction, for example, Thomas states that he’s not interested in sex for the sake of sex, but yet that seems to be the foundation of his relationship with Daniel. First day in and they were already having sex together and the sex scenes gave nothing about emotions involved. The mystery part of the plot was fairly well done, the personal side was pretty uneven and almost unnecessary, it was so underdeveloped. The writing and story were good enough that I’d be willing to try the next book in this new series, but I’d definitely be hoping for better character development.
Rated 3.5 stars by BookSmitten