Dana reviews The Rational Faculty (Hazard and Somerset: A Union of Swords Book 1) by Gregory Ashe (Published by Hodgkin and Blount, November 28, 2019. 397 pages. Audiobook released Jan 14, 2020. Narrated by Tristan James. 11 hours 18 minutes in length.)
Why I listened to this: I love the first series that this seems to have spun off from. I decided to review this book because I was given a code for the second book and wanted to review in order.
Three months have passed since Emery Hazard and John-Henry Somerset faced a madman and lived to tell about it. Three months have passed since Emery Hazard resigned from his job as a detective. Three months can be too long and too short, all at the same time.
On Halloween, a professor at the local college is murdered in his apartment, in front of dozens of witnesses. Then, the killer disappears. Somers is assigned the case and a new partner. While Somers investigates the murder, Hazard struggles to find purpose in his new freedom. Despite his decision to stay away, he finds himself drawn to the case. But he’s no longer in the police force, and in the small town of Wahredua, not all of his former colleagues are happy to see him investigating another crime.
When the sheriff’s son and husband go missing, though, the case becomes more complicated than either Hazard or Somers had expected. And soon, they learn that someone else is manipulating events in Wahredua. Someone who is very interested in Emery Hazard.
I listened to the first Hazard & Somerset series and was excited that the author was going to continue their story. For a quick recap Hazard was a police detective who returned to his hometown and was partnered with his former bully/crush, Somerset. Somerset was a closeted bisexual officer who had a lot of feelings and regrets about his past with Hazard but he was also married with a child. Over the previous series they solved several crimes, took on white supremacists and corrupt cops, and eventually they found themselves single and falling in love. It was a great series but after their last case ended Hazard was forced to leave the department in order to stay with Somerset.
So this story takes place pretty much right after those events. I feel like the books should be read in order, at least in their individual series. You might be able to get away with starting this series with an established couple without reading the first series, but I still recommend that you do. Hazard is not just left jobless after the first book, he also seems to be dealing with some PTSD and a case of depression. The beginning of this story is kind of hard to listen to, not in the way that means you don’t enjoy it, but hearing Hazard explain how many steps it takes him to get from one room to another and how he is “content” to be at home while his boyfriend works. He sits in the dark and loses time until Somerset comes home. There is definitely some angst.
Somerset knows something is wrong but he is reluctant to say anything. I have no real explanation why, but I suspect that in general, men don’t really enjoy talking about feelings. Meanwhile he is stuck learning to work with a new partner and they get a new murder case. The murder involves a professor at the local college that served as a backdrop for several investigations in the previous series, and it looks like it will continue to in this series. Things take a turn when a young man asks Hazard to privately investigate the situation as well. Hazard ends up stepping on Somerset’s feet when his investigations yield more results. A lot of tension develops leading to a blow out fight, and then a long needed discussion about their personal issues.
The mystery is really good and many people seem suspect before it is revealed that there is more going on, and someone is pulling strings behind the scenes. Also, beyond the murder investigation, Hazard receives a mysterious message – “Do you like games?” Young gay men start to disappear and though at first Hazard believes it is part of the murder investigation we learn there might be a serial killer on the loose as well. The investigation delves into anti-fascist protesters that push things to the extreme as well as a renamed white supremacist group from the first series, Bright Lights. I foresee there to be a lot of clashing between the two groups in the future. I think the author definitely makes these books relevant to what is happening in our world the last few years. I am glad the two men were able to work through personal issues to leave things at a happy for now for them and eagerly look forward to how listening to the next book.
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.