Dana and Erryn review A Friend in the Fire (Auden & O’Callaghan Mystery Book 2) by Gregory Ashe and C.S. Poe (Published by Emporium Press. Audio released August 17, 2021. 7 hrs and 56 mins in length. Narrated by Garret Kiesel. Ebook released April 29, 2021. 279 pages.) An audio code was provided in exchange for an honest review.
To read Dana’s review of A Friend in the Dark (Audie & O’Callaghan Mystery Book 1) click here.
To read Erryn’s review of A Friend in the Dark (Audie & O’Callaghan Mystery Book 1) click here.
After solving the mystery behind the death of his former friend in July, ex-Army Sam Auden has been aimlessly wandering the country. Everything had gone sideways in New York City, so when his phone rings three months later, the caller is the last person Sam expected to be asking for help.
Confidential informant Rufus O’Callaghan has been struggling. His NYPD contact was murdered over the summer, and the man Rufus is head over heels for was driven away by his own undiagnosed trauma. But when he receives an anonymous letter that promises information on his mother, life goes from dark to dangerous in the blink of an eye.
Sam and Rufus must dig into Rufus’s rough and turbulent past in order to solve a series of contemporary murders connected to his mother. And if the two can’t expose who the killer is in time, they will most certainly become his next targets.
I wasn’t thrilled with the way book 1 ended. Yes, Sam had his reasons for walking away from Rufus, but it hurt my heart. Of course I could see it was the first in a series – and I know Gregory Ashe’s propensity for putting his protagonists through Hell – so I knew there was a reunion in the offing.
Sam’s gone wandering again and winds up at the Pretty Pretty in Wahrendua – a town I am familiar with thanks to Ashe’s other series, Hazard and Somerset. Nice to see some old friends, if only for a quick visit. Sam’s not coping well, and I keep trying to want to fix him even though I know he’s got to do it himself. He’s soon drawn back to NYC and Rufus (yay!) but they’re investigating the death of Rufus’ mother almost twenty years ago. Talik about a trail gone cold.
Rufus has to relive much of his trauma from those early years and that was tough. As the men try to find answers, they’re trying to stay one step ahead of the police and one step ahead of the killer they seem to have poked into restarting his murders.
The mystery is good, of course, but it was Sam and Rufus who carried my attention. Oh, and the dénouement was pretty, uh, gruesome. I’m hoping there’ll be more books in the series as I’m hoping to see both men farther along on the path to recovery.
Finally, I’m enjoying Garrett Kiesel’s narration of the series and I’ll be happy to see him continue.
8.5/10 Pots of Gold (85% Recommended) – Compares to 4.25/5 Stars
After Rufus and Sam worked together in book one of this series, though there was some attraction and connection between them, the two went their separate ways. I do believe that things will eventually work out for them, but I was okay with their hiatus because both men definitely had some issues to work out.
As we start out this book, Rufus is nearly stabbed by someone from his past, and it really kind of leads into the mystery that needs to be solved in this book. But he can’t exactly solve it on his own so he makes a call to Sam. Sam has been hitchhiking his way around the country for some reason. Sam has PTSD and also some sensory processing issues that made him adverse to touch sometimes and left him with nightmares. Though he started seeing someone for help and taking medicine again, his behavior at the beginning of the story reminded me he is a little bit of a jerk, too.
In a nice cameo from one of Gregory Ashe’s other series, Sam finds himself in Wahredua at the Pretty Pretty club and happens to see Hazard and Somerset before he takes home a bartender and leaves the man in tears just when the call from Rufus comes in. I was turned off by Sam’s callous treatment of this side character, but also happy when he rushed off to help Rufus without hesitation. I definitely appreciate that characters are flawed just like people are in reality. Rufus is crap at taking care of himself so Sam’s first action is to get him to finally sleep and then feed his malnourished body. Both of them clearly missed each other and proceeded to piss each other off with their trust issues and defensiveness. I do see some positive changed in the two men and I believe they will continue to get better as individuals and as a couple, but their happy ever after isn’t in sight yet.
Which leads us to our mystery. There were a few moments that amount of players involved in the murder of Rufus’s mother and several others was confusing. I got lost in what was happening a few times, but I also was able to sort it out in a short amount of time. The investigation and resolution of the crimes was exciting even though I felt bad for Rufus at the same time. I had no clue to who the killer was, but it wasn’t really written in a way that I think the reader is able to figure it out. It was nice to be surprised. And of course the police department still has its share of crooked cops, but Rufus’s new handler seems to be a good fit with him. Things are still a little bit up in the air of where Rufus and Sam are heading, but I am along for the ride for sure.
This is only the second time that I’ve listened to this narrator but I found his performance enjoyable and I hope to see him narrating more books in this genre. As for this book, I recommend it and the series.
8/10 Pots of Gold (80% Recommended) – Compares to 4/5 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.
C.S. Poe is a Lambda Literary and two-time EPIC award finalist, and a FAPA award-winning author of gay mystery, romance, and speculative fiction.
She resides in New York City, but has also called Key West and Ibaraki, Japan, home in the past. She has an affinity for all things cute and colorful and a major weakness for toys. C.S. is an avid fan of coffee, reading, and cats. She’s rescued two cats—Milo and Kasper do their best to distract her from work on a daily basis.
C.S. is an alumna of the School of Visual Arts.
Her debut novel, The Mystery of Nevermore, was published 2016.