REVIEW: Bitter Legacy by Dal MacLean
Detective Sergeant James Henderson of London’s Metropolitan Police Murder Investigation Team is no ordinary police officer. His remarkable gut instincts and relentless detective work have put him on a three-year fast track to becoming an inspector.
When the murder of barrister Maria Curzon-Whyte lands in his lap, he finds himself drawn back into the insidious world of London’s privileged elite?where men like James’s father possess wealth and power enough to hold the law in contempt. As James navigates the promiscuous, secretive and corrupt spheres of the rich, the murderer strikes again.
Soon James begins to fear that these crimes lead dangerously close to his own heart and home. And now, he risks losing everything he’s made of his life unless he can expose the sordid truths that have bred this bitter legacy.
DISCLOSURE. This is a second title this year over which I kind of broke my no ARC rule. And by kind of I mean that I first preordered the paperback of the book but was too impatient to wait and asked Nicole Kimberling (publisher and editor) for the early e-book copy.
Dear Dal MacLean,
Overall I really enjoyed your book, and I think that your book is likely to be on my top ten list at the end of the year.
As the blurb tells you, James (Jamie) Henderson is a talented young man who works as a Detective Sergeant in the Metropolitan Police in London. His career is on the fast track because of his education and abilities. Apparently, being on the fast track implies that he will earn his next title (Detective Inspector) within three years – sooner than most of his colleagues, and since it took many years for his partner to earn a Detective Sergeant rank, I take it that some of his colleagues may never make it to Detective Inspector. I was not quite sure what else “fast track” meant for James besides faster promotion, but it was clear that the fact that he was hired in the first place meant that he was considered a valuable police officer.
The book starts with James arriving at the scene of the murder of a young barrister, which is also described in the blurb, and from there the narrative hits the ground running. Almost right away the author introduces us to James and his boss, Detective Chief Inspector Jo Ingham, and we can see tight professional bond they have.
“Jamie. Anything ?”
James drew in a quick, shocked breath and whirled round.
His Detective Chief Inspector – also known as Herself – stood in the doorway, looking exactly like a woman who’d just hurtled halfway across London on a Sunday to attend murder scene – a stabbing outside a nightclub in Vauxhall – then been required to turn and hurtle back to this one. She wore a white forensic suite too, but the hood remained down, revealing her disastrously disordered corkscrew curls. She raised a mocking eyebrow at James’ badly covered startlement, and he could only shrug wryly in acknowledgement.
They got on well, he and Jo Ingham.
She was a small, plump, half – Jamaican woman in her forties from Essex, with a gratifyingly foul mouth, a husband in the force, and no kids. Everyone knew she could easily have reached a higher rank if she’d wished – she had more than enough intelligence and political savvy – but she had no real desire to climb any further up the greasy pole. She wanted to solve crimes.
James knew that, having come up the hard way herself, Ingham could easily have disdained a fast- track recruit like him, but she’d chosen to nurture his potential. In turn he felt a fierce loyalty to her, drawn to her no – nonsense decency like a moth to the light.”
The story shows us a very methodical investigation in great details, and I enjoyed the heck out of it. I like to see detailed investigations for their own sakes, it seems realistic to me, and I so often miss this in many m/m stories – that is, the heroes being real professional men. Too often any professional ethics and ambitions the heroes have are sacrificed at the altar of “True Love,” and I am a reader who usually does not like it. In this book I never doubted how much James loved his job and that he was competent at his job, because I was shown him actually doing work. He was not the only one who was working, of course – his colleagues and his boss were all working hard trying to solve the murder, which very soon became multiple murders – of course.
I thought that the settings were just wonderful. I felt transported to the places where these professionals were doing their jobs. The investigation skyrocketed into something very complicated and I found myself waiting for the resolution with bated breath. And no, I did not guess the murderer at all. I will be very curious to hear from other readers of the book whether figuring out the murderer’s identity was an easy task for you guys or not.
There is also a romance here, which I thought was combined with the investigation storyline very well – in fact, the romance starts because of the investigation but not in a way I was used to. I am going to share a bit more of the setup than blurb tells us but not too much more.
One of the things James works on very early in the investigation is checking out an address he found in the victim’s notebook. When he goes to that address he meets a couple of interesting guys there, and amongst them is Ben Morgan, with whom James will eventually start a relationship (as the blurb mentions).
Several people living at this address were scrutinized by the police for possible connections with the victim, but everybody checked out clear and the police went on to pursue other line of inquiries. When James first went to investigate the address, he learned that Ben was looking to rent one of the rooms in his flat (initially Ben had thought that he came to take a look at the room). James was looking to get out of the place he was living at the time and was tempted by Ben’s place. He also realized that he was attracted to Ben but tried to not think about it/ suppress it (because we all know how well that usually works out ?). Then, even after it seemed that nothing connected the address to his investigation, James still asked his boss whether it would be okay to try to rent this room under the circumstances. This was such a breath of fresh air to me – in the m/m world policemen so often forget that sleeping with victims/ witnesses/ potential criminals may not be the best idea, so a guy who worries about a potential breach of ethics in a much more low key situation gets a deserved thumbs up from me.
James hadn’t known he planned to ask her until he opened his mouth. “Do you remember the address I went to in Selworth Gardens? The one I found in Maria’s study?”
Ingham’s gaze sharpened . “You found something ? The Russian thing ?”
“No,” he said quickly. “It’s just …one of the flats. It had a room available .”
Ingham appeared puzzled, clearly searching her memory for a link to the investigation. James could tell that her thought processes were sluggish with tiredness, like his own. Then her expression cleared.
“Oh. Alec said you’re still looking for a place.”
The confirmation that Ingham and Scrivenor gossiped about James came as no surprise . In a strange way, it felt almost comforting.
“Yeah,” he pressed on. “So I wondered… Do you think it’s be appropriate to check it out, with a view to renting ? I mean, since I interviewed the landlord ?”
Soon enough after James and Ben become roommates they do start a relationship, but Ben seemingly cannot do monogamous relationships and James wants monogamy. Beware that while Ben never lies to James as to him wanting James but also wanting to sleep with other people, I did think that at times he treated James like absolute shit. No, not because he slept with other people – an honest open relationship is something that does not bother me in the slightest if executed well — but because of how he did it. Basically several times Ben paraded his conquests in front of James, as if he wanted to hurt him.
The funny thing is that I still liked Ben – I accepted his flaws and forgave him once all his secrets were out in the open. I love when an author manages to write a flawed character who is still likeable (To me, that is, and opinions of course may differ – remember the treating James like shit part). But I also think that the conflict between them was wonderfully chosen – nothing contrived, just basically as much as they fell in love, they eventually clashed because of who they were as people and what they wanted from the relationship. And I want to stress that I really liked James too. The guy is dedicated to his work, gives all of himself when he falls in love, realizes that he is not perfect – what’s not to like?
I was extremely satisfied and happy by the conclusion of both the mystery and the romantic storyline. Well, actually, the mystery left me a little heartbroken too.