Title: Hell or Highwater #1 - Catch A Ghost
Author: S.E. Jakes
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: 9/9/13
Rating: 4 Quills
Tags: law enforcement, military, private contract work, damaged men, kidnapping, badassery, alphas, hot, paranormal, ambiguous ending
Note: I received a free ARC of this story for the sake of review from Net Galley.
Everyone knows that Prophet - former Navy SEAL, former CIA spook, full-time pain in the ass - works alone and thinks only about the trouble he can cause. But his boss, Phil Butler of Extreme Escapes, LTD., has just assigned Proph not only a new partner but also a case haunted by ghosts from Proph's past. Suddenly, he's got to confront them both head on.
Tom Boudreaux - failed FBI agent, failed sheriff, full time believer in bad luck - is wondering why the head of a private contracting firm has hunted him down to offer him a job. Still he's determined to succeed this time, despite being partnered with Prophet, EE, LTD's most successful, lethal, and annoying operative, and even though the case is also resurrecting his own painful past.
Together Prophet and Tom must find a way to take down killers in the dangerous world of underground cage matches, while fighting their own dangerous attraction. And when they find themselves caught in the crossfire, these two loners are forced to trust each other and work together to escape their ghosts...or pay the price.
This is the story of two severely broken men trying figure out how to keep on living. Prophet struggles with guilt and ghosts from his past as he races to catch a future he doesn't really want. Tom has enough baggage to weigh down anyone and just doesn't want to drag anyone else down with him. Neither wants a partner - though for different reasons - but their boss, Phil Butler doesn't give them a choice. Prophet and Tom are sent on an assignment that tugs at Prophet's past in more ways than are apparent and the case pulls both of them into a dark and confusing world of slowly planned revenge and promises made that must be broken.
The first thing that drew me into this story were the rich, multidimensional characters. Cop/Spy/Assassin novels are a dime a dozen in the genre and after awhile it seems you are reading the same book over and over again. This is not that book. These are not those characters. Tom and Prophet are a unique blend of walls and vulnerability. The moment you think you have one of them pegged, they go and surprise you with a bout of truth or unexpected insight. These two play well off of each other with interesting dialogue and gut wrenching emotion.
I was also impressed with the fact S.E. remained true to her characters and true to her story by not wrapping everything in a pretty bow by the end of the book. I was initially shocked, and maybe a bit dismayed, by how the ending left Tom and Prophet. However, the more I thought about it the more excited I got for the books to come in this series. Rather than wrapping everything up and then tacking books with superficial conflict on for the sake of making a series, S.E. is allowing her characters room for real growth and development in the later books.
There were just a couple of things that occasionally knocked me out of the story though. Since this is my first book by S.E., I am not sure if this is just her writing style or if it was an affectation of the narrative voice in this book. However, I noticed a tendency to leave out the subject, especially at the beginning of sentences. This can be used, on occasion to good effect. However, it was used so often that I found myself annoyed every time I saw it and I kept wanting pull out my red pen and add a subject.
Nevertheless, the wonderful characterization and solid plotting were plenty enough to make me want to continue despite this stylistic choice. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys darker mysteries with an element of the paranormal or anyone who likes to see two well developed alpha males go at each other. In many ways, Catch a Ghost, is reminiscent of the feel of Abi Roux's Cut & Run series (the later books of which are also available from Riptide). If you are a fan of that series, you should definitely check this series out!