Title: Bitter Legacy
Author: Dal Maclean
Publisher: Blind Eye Books
Release: 4th October 2016
Genre: M/M (murder / mystery)
Detective Sergeant James Henderson’s remarkable gut instincts have put him on a three-year fast track to becoming an inspector. But the advancement of his career has come at a cost. Gay, posh and eager to prove himself in the Metropolitan Police, James has allowed himself few chances for romance.
But when the murder of barrister Maria Curzon-Whyte lands in his lap, all that changes. His investigation leads him to a circle of irresistibly charming men. And though he knows better, James finds himself enticed into their company.
Soon his desire for photographer Ben Morgan challenges him to find a way into the other man’s lifestyle of one-night stands and carefree promiscuity. At the same time his single murder case multiplies into a cruel pattern of violence and depravity.
But as the bodies pile up and shocking secrets come to light, James finds both his tumultuous private life and coveted career threatened by a bitter legacy.
Oh my goodness, this book………. I mean………. THIS BOOK! If you don’t read any other book for the rest of this year then you have to read THIS BOOK! That’s my mantra - THIS BOOK - I’m sticking to it and making no apologies. Why all the excitement? Well, when you pick up a book from a debut author introducing her first book you always take a chance. However, no risk no fun, right? After reading the first chapter I was shouting from the rooftops with joy! I had already decided that unless something totally disastrous happens, unless there is a total apocalypse, then THIS BOOK for me shot right to five stars without passing go! It’s such a rare and precious thing when I feel so sure about a book being a huge hit with me so soon. But when it happens it’s like striking gold. THIS BOOK is pure gold; my precious!
The book begins with the discovery of a body in London that has been strangled. Nothing really new there to start a murder / mystery book with a dead body. A plot ploy that has been used time and again. It throws the reader straight into the thick of things and it introduces our main character Detective Sergeant James Henderson perfectly. However, as always in life, it’s not what you do but the way that you do it! The writing style is like none other I have read, powerful, evocative, descriptive but not too much, an exquisite use of language and sentence construction. A masterful style as the author plays her reader like a puppet with her easy, professional and well rounded narrative. A style that I can’t even begin to sing its accolades loud enough. I bow to this author’s talent. It is as good as, if not better than any big, mainstream, best selling author I have ever read. Where have you been hiding all this time Ms Maclean? So thrilled you have decided to share your unbelievable talent with the rest of us. One book and I’m already a die hard fan! I couldn’t believe that this is a debut author. Yes, as I said……. struck gold!
DS James Henderson is one of the fast tracked, high flyers on the force and a member of the murder investigation team in his part of London. However, there’s no arrogance with him, he is immediately likable, just a hard working kind of guy doing the best he can at his job. He is “out” at work and that’s no issue. I think today on the police force in the UK there is no issue being gay and found it totally correct from the author not to make this an issue. Gives the reader the chance to concentrate on the murder / mystery itself. Just a man doing his job and his sexuality not playing a role in that discussion anymore. I loved the myriad of characters on his team, his boss Ingham who is feisty, hard but fair. His colleague Scrivenor, a rough around the edges Glaswegian, but with a heart the size of a big cuddly bear, someone who is older than Henderson but with a lot of experience who got to where he is by doing things the hard way. Oh and he constantly gives Henderson some good natured ribbing too! Then there is Sameer who is intelligent, quick off the mark and a whiz at digging up information. I loved the dynamics of this team and could just feel how well they all worked together while trying to solve the murder cases turning up on their beat.
James is looking for new digs as where he’s currently staying isn’t very nice but trying to find something affordable in London that is decent and not a shit hole is almost an impossible task. His investigation takes him to a house in a nice part of town and while he is there meets one of the flat owners, Ben Morgan, who has a room to rent. Ben is interested in the room but he is obviously more interested in the charismatic Ben Morgan. James is a gay newbie in many respects, due to his family background and expectations he had tried and failed miserably at the whole pretence needed to have a wife, 2.5 kids and a golden retriever. Therefore he had turned his back on his family, doing his own thing and being true to himself. Needless to say daddy was not best pleased, especially when we learn who is father actually is. But by end of the book there is some heart warming closure on that front. But I’m side tracking, back to charming Ben.
This is where the relationship that develops between Ben and James becomes just a big mind fuck. As tortured and twisted as the murder investigation itself. James is drawn to Ben like a moth to a flame. He sees something in Ben that is irresistible, sexy, hot and totally desirable. And he is! Ben also had me drawn in hook, line and sinker. When these two get it on it’s off the heat scale. But what do two people do when they want completely different things? James is a one man guy and wants the traditional loving and caring relationship. Ben doesn’t believe that men can be faithful and wants an open relationship. So there we have it! This leads to an emotional roller coaster ride, especially on the side of James. James is prepared to give it a go, although trying to cope with Ben’s lifestyle it feels like he sells a part of his own soul, comprising his own integrity and moral codex which causes him a lot of internal hurt and suffering. He tries to be the stoic copper about it all but even the police are human beings with feelings which can hurt. Well, needless to say that things don’t go well, James is hurting, frustrated and before he gets hurt anymore decides to call it a day, move out and concentrate on his work.
Ben was the mystery for me though, although he says he doesn’t believe in monogamy, is open about it with others and James, I always got the feeling that there were depths to Ben that yet have to be uncovered. Does his belief against a traditional relationship come from a more deep rooted cynicism? Is he just afraid of commitment and all the responsibility that comes with it? What influences were there as a child, / young adult to give him his set of values or lack of he has today? No one can say he is not true to himself but what happens when others get hurt? He seems to be oblivious to the trail of emotional shipwrecks he leaves in his wake. Cheating? No, how can it be when he’s totally open and honest about it. However, I just kept getting that feeling that despite all he says and the way he behaves there’s something lying under the surface that Ben isn’t telling. James also senses this but drives him to despair in the meantime trying to crack this nut open. As the story unfolds Ben’s layers are gradually peeled back one by one and by the end we get to see the whole Ben.
He always manages to make James feel wanted and loved, brings him around to his way of thinking and then goes off with other guys. No wonder the breaking point came with James after a certain amount of time.There is only so much James could take. From James’ perspective the relationship was seriously psycho, just when you think it’s safe to go back into the shower……… the next surprise is waiting around the corner to give you a good slap in the face. However, Ben for me was NOT unlikable as a character either, to be honest I loved him. He is a complete charmer! So there we have it once again! Paradox. A relationship that is intricate and complex, as infuriating as it is tender and loving at times, just when you think it’s on it’s off, leading down so many dead ends it kind of mirrored everything that was going on with the murder investigation.
I LOVED the way this whole book is plotted. The murder / mystery is realistic, at least for me, in the very best British tradition of all those TV shows like Taggart, Inspector Morse, The Bill, Silent Witness etc. All murders solved, the killer caught and oh my what a final scene. Could I understand the motive of the murderer? Totally! I actually felt sorry for him in a way. A pure victim of circumstance. It would still never excuse his deeds though. The plot is detailed and challenging, keeping the reader on their toes all the time. First the MIT team think they have their suspect, question him, then they don’t , then they do. A lot also revolves around James' almost sixth sense with people, always getting the feeling that something doesn’t add up which brings him to another revelation in the investigation. He drives his boss Ingham, who I adored, absolutely potty. Just when she thinks everything is hung cut and dried she has to go back upstairs to explain to the top brass that maybe it’s not all over yet. Loved it. However, she believes in his talent and that's why she put him in charge of this investigation. All brilliantly plotted out and crafted. As far as motives are concerned all plausible and enough there to lead anyone down the wrong path.I defy anyone who can say or work out who the murderer is in this story before at least 75% of the book has been read. But even then, just as you think they have their man, James has one more last minute revelation that turns everything on its head and the final twist in the story had me on the edge of my seat until the very end. SUPERB!
The romance and murder / mystery part is well balanced out. I love it where a book doesn’t try to give the one or the other more importance. A true romantic thriller in all senses.
So what about any HEA for Ben and James? Is there one? Well, the only thing I’m going to give away is …… yes there is! So no worries for all those readers who need a HEA. You’ll get it, it’s a long time in coming and it may seem absolutely impossible at times, but it happens and makes it all the more worth it.
At the end of the day after everything has been said, I’m sure you have the general idea if you’ve read my review this far. Don’t delay, go get yourself a copy and read……………..
Connect with the Author
Dal Maclean comes from the North of Scotland. Her background is in journalism, and she has an undying passion for history, the more gossipy and scandalous the better. Dal has lived in Asia and worked all over the world, but home is now the UK. She dislikes the Tragic Gay trope, but loves imperfect characters and genuine emotional conflict in romantic fiction. As an author, and a reader, she believes it’s worth a bit of work to reach a happy ending. Agatha Christie, English gardens and ill-advised cocktails are three fatal weaknesses, though not usually at the same time.