Dana reviews ‘Orientation (Borealis Investigations Book 1)’ by Gregory Ashe. This book was released on May 24, 2019, and is 384 pgs long. The audiobook version of this story was narrated by Charlie David. It was released on October 15, 2019, and is 11 hrs and 25 mins long.
Why I read this book: I really liked the Hazard and Somerset series by this author and was interested in the blurb for this first book in the Borealis Investigations series. I bought the audio on my own, but wanted to review it when I learned that a co-reviewer would be reviewing the second book in this series.
Shaw and North are best friends, private detectives, and in danger of losing their agency. A single bad case, followed by crippling lawsuits, has put them on the brink of closing shop. Until, that is, a client walks into their Benton Park office.
Matty Fennmore is young, blond, and beautiful, and he’s in danger. When he asks for Shaw and North’s help foiling a blackmail scheme, the detectives are quick to accept.
The conspiracy surrounding Matty runs deeper than Shaw and North expect. As they dig into the identity of Matty’s blackmailer, they are caught in a web that touches politicians, the local LGBT community, and the city’s police.
An attack on Matty drives home the rising stakes of the case, and Shaw and North must race to find the blackmailer before he can silence Matty. But a budding romance lays bare long-buried feelings between Shaw and North, and as their relationship splinters, solving the case may come at the cost of their friendship.
As I said above, I am a fan of the author’s other series, Hazard and Somerset Mystery series. The two series don’t have much to do with each other, no crossover characters and not a spin-off. But what they do have in common is that they are better labeled as Gay Fiction or LGBT mystery. The main characters in this series are gay and in same sex relationships. They secretly have feelings for each other, that I believe will one day come to fruition, but at this time the story is not a romance. There are hidden feelings, and missed moments. It is bittersweet and hurt my heart when it comes to the relationship between the characters. However, this series is really about the cases that their agency takes, the mysteries and deceptions.
In this book, we are quickly introduced to the characters and fed a lot of information about their pasts. Shaw is a fairly wealthy man, and owner of Borealis Investigations. There is more behind his sole ownership but it takes too much time to explain completely. He is a bleeding heart, which I could find myself relating to, but he is also kind of flighty and impulsive. He seems the less responsible of the two, but I do feel like things even out later. He has also been the victim of two very traumatic attacks in his past that have affected him deeply. North is married, but not exactly happily. He is protective over Shaw and has more experience when it comes to investigating. He seems a bit more grounded and serious, and a bit more catty. He technically works for Shaw in less than a full partnership after he lost his PI license involving a shooting. Their agency is rounded off with a receptionist who I can’t decide whether I like with her temper tantrums, lack of respect, and slacking on the job. The two men seem to like having her around though, so who am I to judge?
The mystery in this book comes in the form of Matty who claims to be the victim of blackmail by a one night stand. Matty and Shaw express a bit of desire for each other but try staying professional at first. But the mystery really does take some crazy turns featuring a corrupt leather club owner, drag queens, police officers who seem to be everywhere Shaw and North need to go, a dead blackmailer, and a whole lot of untruths. The story isn’t easily solved and every time it seems like Shaw and North know what’s going on, a new wrench is thrown in. Eventually, they get their man, so to speak, but also a new clue regarding who was involved in one of Shaw’s previous attacks.
There really is a lot going on in the story, but it never feels like overload. I was left with a bit of a book hangover at the end of this story. As the reader who can see the secrets the two men keep from each other and their want for each other while also seeing them unable to express their hidden truths, I felt achy in my stomach and my heart. It’s one of those moments when you want to yell at them to be honest, but at the same time, I could understand why they couldn’t. I think it was difficult because they would’ve had to admit those truths to themselves as well. Truthfully, I love a book that makes me feel strongly, especially in the hurt department. Add in a few good mysteries and I think this will be my kind of series. Charlie David was one of the first narrators I ever listened to way back when I started audiobooks. He did a real good job bringing the story to life.
9/10 Pots of Gold (90% Recommended) – Compares to 4.5/5 Stars
I’m a long-time Midwesterner. I’ve lived in Chicago, Bloomington (IN), and Saint Louis, my current home. Aside from reading and writing (which take up a lot of my time), I’m an educator.
While I enjoy reading across many genres, my two main loves are mystery and speculative fiction. I used to keep a list of favorite books, but it changes so frequently that I’ve given up. I’m always looking for recommendations, though, so please drop me a line if you have something in mind!
My big goal right now is one day to be responsible enough to get a dog.