Title: Ash and Cinders
Author: Rodd Clark
Publisher: Driven Press
Release: 5th December 2016
Genre: M/M (murder/mystery)
“It’s just the devil’s share. When life evens itself out and every bad guy gets what’s coming to em’ . . . it’s one of the few balancing things life really offers.” ~ Gabriel Church
Gabriel Church has done a bad, bad thing . . . and normally that doesn’t bother him too much. But everything changed when he met Christian Maxwell. Chris became his unholy grail. The thing he sought more than any other treasure, yet still a priceless pearl beyond his reach. Nothing he does seems to solidify any prospect of them being able to remain together, to live that happily-ever-after story. Even if he were to make a promise to stop his killing in the name of God, it would still only be a salty futility to wet and tempt his lips.
Christian Maxwell discovered a damaged soul inside Church, with a goodness plumbed somewhere below the visible surface. He saw pain shadowing his killer like some trailing footprint left moist in the sand. But he failed to recognize each victim, or the costs of every action the fugitive took for granted. He simply pushed those faceless victims to the dark recesses of his mind, hiding them from plain view as if they were discarded things, recollections intentionally forgotten.
The one thing Church knows with certainty is the writer is the only person who really knows him, and the only man other than himself who possibly understands where they are both headed. But life is about to get more twisted and dangerous. It begins with a backwards Deputy Sheriff and that same ill-fated chance that always prevented him from slowing down his pace or finding a peaceful place to rest with Chris Maxwell by his side.
The last book in the Gabriel Church Tale series and we’re once again on the run with our enigmatic serial killer. My goodness how I have waited for this third and final book to see how everything would play out. Rodd Clark has delivered a delicious dark tale that plays with the psyche of the reader letting you get behind the mind of a serial killer.
This was for me the whole attraction of these three books, to go where I normally wouldn’t dare or would want to. Gabriel is on the run and the question is will the long arm of the law catch up with him or not? He lands up in a small rural town called Sonora and decides to hole up there for a while. He’s left Christian back in Seattle with a throw away mobile phone being their only contact.
Now in Sonora Gabe lets himself relax for a while, he likes the village and all its mining heritage cuteness. But all the time there is this pull between him and Chris, a connection or attraction that not even Gabriel can rationalise. Will this make him not so concentrated? Will it make him weaker leading him to let his guard down? I definitely felt a shift, almost a softening in Gabriele if you like. He was starting to let himself dream of a future with Chris in it. Something he would never have contemplated before. I loved how you could get into Gabriele’s mind and start to feel the small glimmer of hope he now holds for a future with Chris. Maybe, just maybe, he might be able to put the killing behind him, the urge has definitely now faded to kill at random guided by the so called “white lighters” His recent killings have been more out of a need to protect Chris and keeping him out of harm’s way of the law. Gabe is always the cool one and not easily fazed by things. He needs his cool head in order to think and stay one step ahead of the law. On the other hand, Chris being all new to this, is the worrier and needs Gabe to calm him down.
In this book we are introduced to two other key characters, the local town cop Bleu Corso and Agent Richard Jenkins from CID. Agent Jenkins is on the scent and comes closer to ascertaining Gabe’s and Christian’s involvement in the first murder from the first book. So you get the feeling that slowly but surely the noose is getting tighter for both of them. I was left wondering how Bleu Corso was going to fit into all this.
I loved how Rodd plays this out. Bleu has a secret and that is he is gay. In a small town where everyone knows you from childhood then it’s not something you want getting out as it could be ruinous for your career, reputation and standing alike. So Bleu has his flings when his pent up sexual libido can no longer go without but on the outside for the townspeople he’s the model police officer. Bleu goes to all lengths to keep his homosexuality hidden which I could totally understand in such a place that would have a small town mentality. He too in his own way is a victim and trapped by his secret.
So when he becomes interested in Gabe by stopping him under the pretence of a traffic violation, but wanting more to jump in the sack with him, little does he know how close he will come to being in mortal danger, more than his little small town would ever believe. I was fascinated by this dance that went on between Bleu and Gabe before they both end up in the sack. You can see how Bleu is trying to pick up Gabe but still very insecure as he doesn’t want his cover blown wide for the town to see, but Gabe knows exactly what he is after, uses and reads him like an open book. I could really feel Gabe’s manipulative ways which are necessary for his survival. Just toying with Bleu like a cat does with a mouse. Just like Christian in the first book I had this incredible urge to warn Bleu off Gabe as he doesn’t know what he is getting involved in or with whom. It was like watching a spider weaving its web around a fly, lulling it into a false sense of security before pouncing. Will Bleu end up being another one of Gabe’s victims?`Well, the boy is fool hardy to say the least. So what happens when the mouse roars?
When Bleu starts to feel that there is more to the stranger he just spent a hot night of sex with than meets the eye, Agent Jenkins issues information which makes Bleu’s blood run cold when he reads it. Christian is on his way to meet Gab for a weekend hook up but events take a turn that could spell disaster for both of them.
I must admit the second half of this book is action all the way. The trap becomes too close for comfort for Gabe and he also does something that he would never have normally done before bringing him into a life threatening situation, yet another shift in Gabe’s way of thinking. I was loosening the collar on my shirt with nerves while reading, wanting to know exactly how Gabe is now going to get out of this mess. For once in his life he now has to admit that he needs the help of Chris, without him everything will be lost. Admitting that he needs the help of someone else is also another drastic shift for Gab too, cementing his relationship and dependency on Chris in a warped kind of way.
It’s very hard to write a review for this book because I obviously need to avoid spoilers. But this book will keep you glued to the page until the very end with one super showdown where Gabe and Chris have their closest shave with the law to date. Well, I leave you with a question. What do two men do with secrets they don’t wish to come out into the broad light of day? And I’m not talking about Chris here but the ending was superbly done and I’m so delighted that I have now read all three books. A suitable ending to a superb trilogy that kept me engrossed from beginning to end. You will need to read all books in the series, they are definitely not standalone. Would I like this story to continue? In a selfish kind of way, yes I would! I feel there is still lots more potential there for Gabriel and Chris, the chase is not over with them and Agent Jenkins yet. But I guess only Rodd Clark will be able to answer that question. Is there a HEA? Well, that again remains for the reader to decide.
What I find fascinating about Rodd’s style of writing is his ability to lead the reader into the thoughts and feelings of his characters’ heads. The dialogues between characters are spread out between the narrative about what they are thinking. This gives the reader an unparalleled journey into the recesses of the MCs thoughts, especially the dark corners of Gabriel’s mind, a kind of analytical character study into people’s behaviour and the motivating factors behind them. However, due to this the reader develops an empathy with a serial killer that I would never have thought possible. A journey into what makes people tick, emotions and decisions made which sets us all on the one or the other path in life.
Rubble and The Wreckage
(A Gabriele Church Tale, #1) by Rodd Clark
Rating ~ 4 Stars
Gabriel Church knows you can’t take a life without first understanding just how feeble life is, how tentative and weak it stands alone. If you desire murder, you hold a life in your hand. Whether you release it to grant life or grip tighter to end it, it is at your command and discretion. Gabriel is a serial killer with a story he wants told.
Christian Maxwell studied abnormal psychology in college but chose instead to focus on a career in writing. His background comes in handy when he thinks of writing about a serial killer. He can’t think of anyone more qualified to write the story of Gabriel Lee Church, and do so in the murderer’s own words. It’s been done before, but never with a killer who has yet to be captured or convicted.
There was never anything more than a gentleman’s understanding between the two men that Christian would record Gabriel’s life story. The killer did not ask for his complicity in any crimes, nor did he ever ask for his silence. Christian’s interest in the man, though, is fast becoming something more than academic. When the writer and his subject become unexpected friends and then lovers, the question remains: What is Gabriel’s endgame . . . and why does he want his story told?
“This was definitely not my usual read, so did I like it? Yes, I did. Was it what I was expecting? No, not really. Is it an M/M romance? Yes, of sorts. This story for me was interesting in many ways. It took me out of my comfort zone, made me review many values and in many respects a real mind bender as I felt myself being fascinated, invested and pulled in by the attraction of a serial killer.”
Torn and Frayed
(A Gabriel Church Tale, #2) by Rodd Clark
Rating ~ 4.5 Stars
“Conscience isn’t something all people are born with . . .”
Gabriel Church is a portrait in contrast. It would be easy to get lost in his pale-blue eyes, ache with the need to feel the strength of his masculine frame. He appears to be nothing but animal and instinct. The only people who know the full depth of that truth are dead, murdered, or two thousand miles away.
Gabe is a serial killer. For the first time in his life, he has more on his mind than his own survival. This time he is running from Seattle to protect the only person he thinks innocent in his laundry list of crime and murder: Christian Maxwell, his biographer and unexpected lover. Drawn to a place he never thought to return, Gabe finds new and different realities. Realities that insist he let go of his tragic past, those incredible perceptions of God, and his own divinity. He must open his eyes to what the love of a good man can do to heal a broken soul.
But when the killer is confronted by his own willingness to love and sacrifice, he is forced to ultimately ask the question: Just how far will he go to save a life . . . when all he’s ever done is take them?
"A great psychological thriller with a warped M/M romance thrown in. A super book and an exciting read! The writing of Rodd Clark is detailed and empathetic of his characters, letting the reader delve right into the psyche of Gabriel Church. Maybe it’s a place you want or don’t want to go but just the thrill of going somewhere you normally wouldn’t, pushing your boundaries, questioning rights and wrongs, makes for a super book and an exciting read. Can’t wait for the next book."
Meet Rodd Clark
Rodd currently resides in Dallas, Texas. He shares his life with numerous cats, dogs, and his partner of many years. He has many projects under his belt and is working on many others. Some of his works are There Is Always Another Boogey Man, Jesse, Justice Denied, Short Ride to Hell, A Cache of Killers and the recently completed final book in the Brantley Colton Mystery series, No Place for the Wicked.
Always penning his next work, Rodd likes to keep busy with writing and reading and of course his menagerie of critters.