L.J Hayward’s WHERE DEATH MEETS THE DEVIL is the first in a new-to-me series that includes two novels and three novellas.
If you know me, you know I‘m a sucker for m/m suspense/thriller/mystery written in Third Person with or without romantic elements. Add assassins, and I’m in.
Hayward’s WHERE DEATH MEETS THE DEVIL has a lot going for it. I love the fairly exotic locale, Australia, because it’s something different. Honestly, I cannot remember the last book I read that wasn’t set in the US (not that there is anything wrong with that).
Then there are Jack and Ethan who have good chemistry and begrudging interest in each other. Theirs is not an HEA, but rather an HFN, which suits the genre.
Jack Reardon is a follower of orders. Former military. Working in intelligence now. He’s a peacekeeper at heart; out to keep his part of the world/Australia safe. He starts in a bad place, literally, because the story opens on him tied to a chair in a “torture shack.” Oh, yeah, I was so in. He exchanges one bad place for another throughout the novel; whenever he digs himself out of one hole, another opens up.
Ethan Blade is an enigmatic and very damaged man who happens to be the seventh-ranked assassin in the world (a competently earned spot). Hayward deftly makes her readers care for Ethan although there is barely any backstory, just glimpses into a past that comes with bodily scares. She’s created a very believable and fully fleshed out character who follows his own rules, to a fault, and has his very own way of looking at the world. That he has his sight on Jack is not a good thing. Just ask Jack.
I love Hayward’s treatment of Ethan, in particular. It takes skill to share a character without giving too much away.
Hayward tells their story through Jack’s POV in alternating Then/Now chapters that read less like a gimmick and more like flashbacks should (writers, take note). Her chapters blend seamlessly. Her pace is consistent and her language effortless and to the point. In fact, the novel reads very straight-forward, there is nothing that doesn’t need to be there, no fluff, no filler, just straight-forward twists and turns.
If I had to nail down a theme, I’d say trust. The breaking and earning of it. The weight and responsibility of having it.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and I have no doubt I will enjoy the rest of the series (just as soon as I am done writing this review).
PS. Sheila is the best!