REVIEW: Untouchable (Blake Harte mysteries # 1) by Robert Innes
Harrison Baxter lives on a farm with his parents, on the outskirts of the village of Harmschapel. It’s picturesque, idyllic and tranquil – but Harrison is far from happy. His parent’s marriage is strained to say the least and on top of that, his boyfriend, Daniel, has been mentally and physically abusing him for years. After he finds himself with one bruise too many, Harrison has had enough. But when he plucks up the courage to finally end his violent relationship, Harrison’s life is changed forever when Daniel is found murdered in the most bizarre circumstances.
Detective Sergeant Blake Harte has moved to Harmschapel after his own relationship ended in tatters. But moving to a quiet village after working his way up the ranks in a city brings its own set of problems and Blake soon finds himself at odds with new colleagues who aren’t used to his style of policing. But when he is called upon to investigate the mysterious and impossible murder at Halfmile Farm, Blake finds himself facing the most challenging case of his career.
So how can Daniel have been shot in a locked shed that nobody could possibly have escaped from?
Is anybody really Untouchable?
Dear Robert Innes,
I stumbled upon your book while browsing Amazon’s selection of gay mysteries, and even though it was free on Kindle Unlimited I happily bought it for 99 cents. I ended up being very pleased with my purchase.
When the story begins, Detective Sergeant Blake Harte is moving from Manchester to a small village after his boyfriend of five years left him for a woman. Blake asked for a transfer and his superior was only too happy to oblige because he did not care for Blake’s “unconventional” policing methods. On his first day on the job, when he is introducing himself to his boss and coworkers, Blake gets thrown into investigating a murder. Murders do not happen often in the village of Harmschapel and this murder seems to be a locked-room type.
Daniel, the guy who was murdered, was the boyfriend of Harrison Baxter. Or maybe I should say ex-boyfriend, since right before he was murdered Harrison had been very clear about his desire to break up with Daniel, even if Daniel did not seem to want that. The blurb is very clear that Daniel was abusing Harrison and Harrison had had enough. When Daniel tries to attack Harrison in response to Harrison’s proclamation that it is all over, Harrison’s dad runs into the room, catches Daniel, locks him in the shed, and calls the police to report Daniel’s attack of his son.
Very shortly after the police, including Blake, come in, they hear a shot. When the shed is opened Daniel has no pulse and when the ambulance comes he is pronounced to be dead.
Now, instead of a domestic violence situation, Blake and his team have a murder on their hands – a murder which should not have been able to happen in the first place, since the shed was locked.
“-” Gardiner began. “Yeah, I know that.” Blake nodded. “Circumstantially, at the very least, it should all fit together. But this isn’t a normal murder case. This happened in a locked shed for God’s sake. We’re not just trying to work out who, but how. And from what we’ve seen Harrison, surely, couldn’t”
I really liked the mystery and its resolution in this book. I thought the whole story was very tightly written and the writer did not waste any words; every word seemed necessary to move the story forward. This is one of those mysteries where we have a limited number of suspects (very limited, in fact), but if you think that you have it figured it out right away, think again. The writer managed to surprise me not once but twice with the resolution, and I thought it was very realistic.
Some readers will want to know whether there is a romance in this book. It is definitely a gay mystery, not a romance with a mystery setting, and not even mystery/romance. There is the barest hint of attraction between Blake and one of the suspects, but Blake reminds himself that he is investigating the murder of Harrison’s boyfriend and that’s about it. There is nothing sexual and nothing is sexualized, meaning that we are not treated to policeman and Harrison having sexual fantasies about each other, which to me would have been just as irritating as if they had sex while being policeman and suspect.
“Blake sighed as he watched Harrison leave. He knew he was doing the right thing but he wanted nothing more at that moment than to run after Harrison and bring him back. He looked absolutely desperate. Sometimes he wished that there weren’t such stringent rules that he had to abide by. But sitting down and having a drink with, whether he agreed with it or not, a main suspect in a murder investigation would lead to not only the case being completely and utterly tarnished but him losing his job. Sometimes he had to have almost robotic emotions.”
There is a hint in the epilogue that they may develop something more, when they go for a drink nine months after the events of the book, but if this happens (which I do not mind at all), I personally hope their romance remains in the background and mystery investigations remain the main focus of the series.