REVIEW: Tallowwood by N.R.Walker
Cold cases, murder, lies, and an unimaginable truth.
Sydney detective August Shaw has spent the last decade of work solving cold cases. Since the death of his boyfriend eight years ago, August works alone, lives alone, is alone — and that’s exactly how he likes it. His work is his entire life, and he’s convinced a string of unsolved cold-case suicides are linked to what could be Australia’s worst ever serial killer. Problem is, no one believes him.
Senior Constable Jacob Porter loves his life in the small town of Tallowwood in the middle of the rainforests in northern New South Wales. He runs summer camps for the local Indigenous kids, plays rugby with his mates, has a close family, and he’s the local LGBTQIA+ Liaison and the Indigenous Liaison Officer.
When human remains are found in the camping grounds at Tallowwood Reserve, Jake’s new case turns out to be linked to August’s cold cases, and Jake agrees they’re not suicides at all. With Jacob now firmly in August’s corner, they face one hurdle after another, even when more remains are found, they still can’t seem to gain ground.
But when the body of a fellow police officer turns up under the same MO, it can’t be ignored anymore. August and Jake must trace the untraceable before the killer takes his next victim or before he stops one of them, permanently.
Dear N.R. Walker,
I love gay/ m/m mysteries and when a good friend mentioned your work, I decided to check it out. I thought it started very strongly and was immersed in the story from the start. The blurb gives a good set up. August Shaw is a cold case detective in Sydney, who eats, breaths and sleeps his work. For many years he is trying to solve the multiple murders of gay men where victims were all left on the scene to make it look as if they committed suicide, only August does not buy it. He had however been beating his head against an unmovable brick wall and so far without any success till our story began.
Jake Potter calls August on the recommendation of the medical examiner who now works in his village and who used to work with August. She participated in reviewing the evidence in some of August’s old cases and she noted that some things in the murder Jake discovered that took place in Tallowwood may look familiar.
And that is how Jake and August meet when August comes to Tallowwood. They like each other almost from the beginning, but this is by no means an Insta! Love story. August lost a boyfriend and while several years has passed since the tragedy took place, August pretty much stopped having any social interactions in his life. However friendly, kind Jake who also takes his job extremely seriously catches his eye first as a friend and a colleague and eventually ( surely this is not a spoiler) as a boyfriend. I was perfectly happy with how their romance developed and with the fact that romance took a second seat in the plot to the mystery/suspense.
““But I’ll pack my running gear for Sydney,” Jacob added, sipping his drink with a smile. “And you can run with me.” August winced at the thought. “Uh, yeah, probably not.” Porter met his gaze and stared. “And you can run with me.”
August chuckled despite the insistence or threat of exercise. Now that August thought about it, Jacob had ordered his lunch and dinner for him, told him what they were doing on the case, and told him he was staying at his house. “You’re quite bossy, aren’t you?” Porter grinned. “You’re a fast learner, Detective.””
This exchange is a good example of their banter. Jake slowly but surely teases August from his shell , but it is not as if August is a passive participant, he is also very intelligent man who has a sense of humor and he could hold his own in conversation very well. But for the most part the men are very much involved in trying to find out the serial killer who killed all those people.
I thought the mystery plot was very intense and frankly did not know how it would end. I still wish I did not know, because it all fell apart for me in the second half/last quarter of the book.
The revelation was unexpected, but it is not the revelation itself that bothered me, it is the extent of what happened and not being able to believe that it could have gone as long as it did. It was just bizarre. Also, even though I said that the killers’ identities were unexpected, I predicted what would happen as a final plot twist very very early in the book ( and I was right). I wish it was not so predictable. The most intense part of the story also did a thing with spirituality where it took some things way too far for me.
Grade: C because of how well it all started.