Release Date: December 9, 2018
Received From: Review copy from the author
Jack Reardon uncovers secrets for a living, and the Meta-State spy is pretty good at it. Or rather he thought so until he met Ethan Blade—assassin, warrior, enigma. The unlikely pair have decided to give living together a shot, but Jack’s not entirely certain what he’s gotten himself into—or exactly who he’s in it with.
Jack’s worries are compounded when he’s assigned to a police strike force hunting a serial killer. With each new puzzle piece, Jack considers the true nature of a serial killer—and how similar it is to an assassin. To one particular assassin who’s having trouble adjusting to retirement. Jack’s unsure how to help Ethan—or if he even can.
When the killer strikes close to home, Jack must race against the clock to stop another murder, despite the price someone has put on his head. Could the matters be connected? Is a certain assassin at the centre of both? Surrounded by killers, the only one Jack wants near disappears, leaving Jack drowning in secrets. He’ll have to do what he does best—unravel the secrets, including Ethan’s—to stop the killer and save the life he and Ethan have only just begun to build.
Child abuse and child sexual abuse in a character’s history and not depicted directly on the page.
SEXUALITY: homosexual, bisexual
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: homoromantic
TROPES: nonlinear timeline, love triangle/love V
TAGS: adult, contemporary, romance, romantic suspense, queer romance, queer characters, biracial character, Indian character, disabled character, existing relationship, interracial romance
WARNINGS: torture mention, violence, child abuse, mental illness (PTSD), drugging, terrorism mention, ableism, cheating mention, racism, sex trafficking mention, binary language, pedophilia, rape, anti-native language (“savagely”), misogyny, bullying mention, slurs, racial slurs, physical injury, hospitalization
In keeping with the first of the series (as well as all the extra shorts), WHY THE DEVIL STALKS DEATH is a fast-paced, intensely wild ride, and an enjoyable, albeit stressful, one at that.
I continue to fall in love with Ethan more and more as this series goes on. Watching him continually shake new bits of the indoctrination and horribleness he suffered as a child, and finally learning to open himself up to someone he can have a life with, is such a painfully beautiful process, but it’s totally worth it. By the end of this novel, we’ve learned so much more about him and it’s practically impossible to not want to mother him. And Jack, likewise, develops so much over the course of this novel. As we see him learn more about Ethan, we also get to see him learn more about himself–what he really wants, mistakes he’s made (both forgivable and unforgivable), and similarly, learning to be more open with the people he cares about. And then to see the two of them struggle, and ultimately succeed, to make things work? *chef’s kiss* It’s so lovely.
Also, I have a love/hate relationship with the nonlinear timeline that Hayward uses for the main novels in this series! I hate it for the fact that it keeps me from knowing aspects I want to know, because I hate being out of the loop. But I also love it for that same reason. It perfectly builds up the intrigue and suspense, leaving the reader at the edge of their seat almost constantly. And sometimes literally. Hayward uses this method to perfectly plant doubts and questions about all aspects of the plot, characters, and relationships. Mild spoiler, but the only part of that I didn’t enjoy this time around was the implication that Jack cheats on Ethan. He doesn’t, but for a majority of the novel, we’re given the barest of details, which really does make it seem like he might’ve, and that Ethan caught him at it.
The last thing I want to talk about is something that’s been cringeworthy from the first book, which is the obsession with the difference in their skin tones. From the Indian character. It’s mentioned in practically every sex scene how much Jack gets off on seeing his darker skin and Ethan’s lighter skin together, which…okay. If it was from an author of color, I would still be a bit skeptical with how frequently it’s mentioned, but based on the few pictures I’ve seen. Hayward appears to be white. Which makes this aspect a bit fetishistic, uncomfortable, and unnecessary.
Also, there’s what appears to be a racial slur that’s used briefly 1-2 times. I assume it’s one specific to Australia and the surrounding region, but I could be wrong and just not heard it used in America before. Again, an unnecessary aspect. The person who says it is the antagonist of the novel–a serial killer–so he’s obviously a Bad Guy, and I’m sure this is used to further bring it home and reiterate that he’s a bad person, but again. Unnecessary. We already know he sucks.
All in all, I did enjoy the novel and still love the two main characters.
L.J. Hayward has been telling stories for most of her life. Granted, a good deal of them have been of the tall variety, but who’s counting? Parents and teachers notwithstanding, of course. These days, the vast majority of her story telling has been in an honest attempt to create fun and exciting ways of entertaining others (and making money).
As such, she is still a mad (always provoked!) scientist in a dungeon laboratory (it has no windows. Seriously, the zombie apocalypse could be going on outside and she’d have nary a clue) who, on the rare occasions she emerges into the light, does so under extreme protest and with the potential hazard of bursting into flames under the southeast Queensland sun.