Erryn reviews ‘Tallowwood’ by N.R. Walker. The book was self-published on September 23, 2019 and is 375 pages.
NOTE: This book was provided in exchange for an honest review.
Why I read: I am a huge N.R. fan and will read anything she writes.
Sydney detective August Shaw has spent the last decade of work solving cold cases. Since the death of his boyfriend eight years ago, August works alone, lives alone, is alone — and that’s exactly how he likes it. His work is his entire life, and he’s convinced a string of unsolved cold-case suicides are linked to what could be Australia’s worst ever serial killer. Problem is, no one believes him.
Senior Constable Jacob Porter loves his life in the small town of Tallowwood in the middle of the rainforests in northern New South Wales. He runs summer camps for the local Indigenous kids, plays rugby with his mates, has a close family, and he’s the local LGBTQIA+ Liaison and the Indigenous Liaison Officer.
When human remains are found in the camping grounds at Tallowwood Reserve, Jake’s new case turns out to be linked to August’s cold cases, and Jake agrees they’re not suicides at all. With Jacob now firmly in August’s corner, they face one hurdle after another, even when more remains are found, they still can’t seem to gain ground.
But when the body of a fellow police officer turns up under the same MO, it can’t be ignored anymore. August and Jake must trace the untraceable before the killer takes his next victim or before he stops one of them, permanently.
There is a reason why I love N.R. Walker. She’s a versatile writer who goes where her muse takes her. From her historical novel Nova Praetorian to Upside Down the quirky comedy about asexuals. This ability to write what is in her heart has provided some powerful stories (I’m looking at you, Galaxies and Oceans) and some lighthearted fare (loved Finders Keepers). When I heard she was writing a mystery I was intrigued. Of course I knew the two lead characters were going to be gay, but the rest was, as they say, a mystery.
This is a long book and worth every second of commitment to reading it. In other words, I loved it.
August Shaw is a grizzled detective and although he’s only forty-one, he’s seen too much, endured too much. He suffered the devastating loss of his boyfriend and has been very much shut off ever since. He’s holed up in a little office at the police department poring over cold case files, trying to find justice for those who have been written off. Mainly people in the LGBT community. Some have family and friends who still care about seeing justice while others were estranged from their biological families. But each victim has become part of August’s family and he wants to see their lives remembered.
He’d seen so much death in his life it was hard to separate himself from it. Professionally, he had to remove himself and any emotional attachment so he could assess each case individually. He had to look at the facts; he had to compartmentalize and look at each victim objectively. And he struggled to separate that part of him, each and every time.
Because there was a part of August in every case. A part of his identity, a part of who he was in every LGBT cold case that landed on his desk. In the beginning, he’d often wondered how long he could do it for, how much of his soul he could give to his job before he had none left to give.
Now he wondered how much of his soul he would lose if he stopped.
When a new murder takes him north into the lush forests of Tallowwood, he meets Senior Constable Jake Porter. Jake is pretty much the opposite of August. Although August is out and has been for a while, he’s not quite out with the same enthusiasm as Jake.
August looked at Jake. “And the LGBT liaison role?”
“LGBTQIA+.” Jake grinned as he corrected him. “If you’re asking if I’m gay or bi, then yes, Gay as a unicorn on a rainbow with confetti and sparkles, dancing to a soundtrack of Cher or Kylie Minogue.”
Jake snorted out a laugh. “That’s pretty fucking gay, that’s what that is.”
August laughed, and Jake was struck by how handsome he was when his whole face lit up like that.
It’s clear from the outset that Jake has a bit of hero worship toward August, feeling the older man blazed a path letting Jake be the LGBT liaison officer and out. He’s also the Indigenous Liaison Officer so there was an interesting dynamic of old meets new with August making a few missteps along the way. Both men have a lot to learn from each other though and when the chemistry becomes unmistakable, they’re both willing to explore their feelings. Well, Jake’s willing and August, at first anyway, is just sort of along for the ride. One character describes Jake as the “Energizer Bunny Boy Scout” and there’s some truth to that. There is also a surprising amount of humor in this book, in no small part thanks to Scarlett the pampered pussy.
But I digress. There are murders to be solved and it’s going to take both men working together to figure out who has been killing off young gay men. Any death is tragic, but it’s become clear over the years that these men were targeted because they were gay. That always hit home for August and now does for Jake as well.
The mystery part of this book was fantastic. I truly did not know the ‘who dunnit’ or even where everyone slotted in with their individual roles. There are plenty of characters and I can say that every single one played an important role. Despite the size of the book and characters, there was no wasted time or energy.
This book was great and I can honestly say I loved it. Devoured it in just one sitting. Then let it digest for a couple of days before sitting down to write my impressions. I almost feel like I can’t give the book the due it’s deserved in just a short review but I don’t want to give anything away. I really hope people read it and enjoy it as much as I did.
10/10 Pots of Gold (100% Recommended) – Compares to 5/5 Stars
She is many things; a mother, a wife, a sister, a writer. She has pretty, pretty boys who she gives them life with words.
She likes it when they do dirty, dirty things…but likes it even more when they fall in love. She used to think having people in her head talking to her was weird, until one day she happened across other writers who told her it was normal.
She’s been writing ever since…