Dana reviews Yet a Stranger (The First Quarto Book 2) by Gregory Ashe. (Published by Hodgkin and Blount on May 10, 2021. Audio length 11hrs 22 mins. Narrated by J.F. Harding. Ebook released December 15, 2020. 438 pages.) An audio code was provided in exchange for an honest review.
When Auggie Lopez returns to Wroxall College, he’s determined that his second year will be different from the chaos he faced as a freshman. He’s living in the Sigma Sigma house, he’s got a good group of friends, and his social media presence is growing. Meeting a hot older guy on move-in day is just the cherry on top. All he has to do now is avoid getting dragged into another murder.
That last part, though, turns out to be easier said than done, especially when Auggie’s ex-roommate, Orlando, asks for help. Orlando’s brother Cal has gone missing, and Orlando wants Auggie to find him.
Auggie knows he’ll need help, but recruiting his friend—and crush—Theo is not as straightforward as he expects. While Auggie was gone for the summer, Theo has started dating someone, and neither Theo nor Auggie knows how to handle the shift in their relationship.
Finding Orlando’s brother dead only makes their situation more complicated. Although the police are quick to write off the homicide as a drug deal gone wrong, Auggie and Theo aren’t so sure, and Orlando begs them to keep investigating. To learn the truth, Auggie and Theo will have to untangle a web of lies while keeping each other safe from a killer who is determined to stop them.
As Auggie and Theo dig deeper, they realize that Cal was a stranger even to the people who thought they knew him. And Auggie and Theo both begin to fear that they are also strangers to each other.
I finished this book yesterday and my thoughts and emotions are still all over the place. It feels difficult to organize my ideas into a logical review, but I will do my best. I will start with the narration, because that is pretty easy. J.F. Harding is a good narrator who I have listened to many times and wouldn’t hesitate to listen to again. I think he did a good job bringing the story to life.
I really liked Auggie and Theo when I met them in the first book of the series. Auggie was somewhat self-obsessed, and trying to make a name for himself on social media in hopes of getting rich and famous. His older brother is the head of their family and provides for Auggie in many ways, and also teases him. Over the course of the first book, Auggie is outed and suspected of murder and these things are humbling. Theo is a widower, who lost his husband in an accident and was left grieving with a child who remains severely affected from the crash. He doesn’t change as much as Auggie, but he does start to realize he might be ready to fall for someone again.
Like most of this author’s books, the love stories contained within are slow-burn and take a backseat to the mysteries the characters are trying to solve. Though Auggie and Theo had chemistry, the last book ended with them not together. I was okay with that because I fully expect them to get together at some point in the series and I like it when couples have to work for their happy ending. What I didn’t expect was for both of them to hook up with such manipulative and emotionally abusive jerks. Theo is falling for his deceased husband’s work partner who is a closeted officer in the Wahredua police department. Auggie likes the attention he is getting from his older frat brother. In both relationships, Auggie and Theo seem to be bending themselves into pretzels to please these guys and it’s never good enough. At times they seem to realize how they are being gaslighted, but then decide they don’t deserve better. It was killing me and I wanted to yell at them to leave these toxic men.
Auggie and Theo, together, are less toxic but they are really doing a good job trying to tank things before they begin. For the most part, they snipe at each other while working to help figure out what happened to Auggie’s old roommate’s brother. But when they each experience emotional and physical crashes they turn to each other. Theo is mixing pills and alcohol while yelling at Auggie not to do the same at parties. Auggie gets emotional and reckless and puts his life in danger. I like how they find comfort in each other, but it’s far from a healthy relationship.
I will admit what these two characters are going through in their personal lives weighed heavy on me during this listen. I will also admit that I am not complaining about it at all. I am a bit of an angst junkie when it comes to books and audiobooks. And even though Auggie and Theo are still single at the end of this book, I am still holding out hope that things are going to get better. Hopefully, soon.
That leaves me with the mystery featured in this book. I know part of me was highly invested in the relationship part of this book, so it’s possible it overshadowed the missing person/murder investigation Auggie and Theo take on to help Orlando, Auggie’s former roommate. His brother went missing and when they find his dead body, clues unravel that seem to link to the attack on another college student and the police shooting of another young woman a few months before. Auggie and Theo think it might be drug related and have a violent run in with corrupt cop Linder from the first book (and the Hazard and Somerset series.) They almost get put in jail themselves, when a search for evidence goes too far. When they find the right culprit, the explanation of why and how it happened felt a little wild.
I did enjoy the mystery but after Auggie ended up injured and in the hospital twice in this book, I really felt for his brother who was stressing over Auggie’s safety and the bills he was racking up. Auggie does seem to go through even more change in this book, at least when it comes to his consideration of how his behavior affects others. And he seems to want to be more self-reliant and that can’t be a bad thing. Theo seems to be slipping backwards though and I do think he will have to want to help himself before he can enter into a healthy relationship with Auggie in the future. I am looking forward to finding out how they might get themselves wrapped up in another mystery in the next few books, but am really eager for them to get their problems sorted out so they can be happy.
For fans of the Hazard and Somerset series we get more interaction with John Henry Somerset and that is definitely fun. I loved the story and the narration in this book so I would definitely recommend it and the series.
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!
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