A string of murders targeting effeminate gay men has the GLBTQ community of Chicago on alert, but budget cuts have left many precincts understaffed and overworked. Not to mention, homophobia is alive and well within the law enforcement community and little has been done to solve the mystery. When the FBI calls in Special Agent Todd Hutchinson and his team, the locals are glad to hand the case off. But Hutch finds a bigger mystery than anyone originally realized—seventeen linked murders committed in several different jurisdictions. Hutch’s clues lead him to Noah Walker.Working on his PhD in forensic psychology, Noah has been obsessed with serial murders since he was a child. But coming to Hutch’s attention as a suspect isn’t a good way to start a relationship. Noah finds himself hunted, striking him off Hutch’s suspect list, but not off his radar. To catch the killer before anyone else falls victim, they’ll have to work together, and quickly, to bring him to justice.
I need to start off this review by saying that I’m a big fan of SJD Peterson’s books, so I knew going in that I would likely love this. I’m happy to say that I did, but it is very different from the Guards of Folsom series, or even Plan B and BAMF. I gotta give her props for being an incredibly versatile author.
Splintered follows the gut-wrenching search for a horrific serial killer who is targeting effeminate gay men, then mutilating and torturing them before he kills them. Enter FBI Special Agent ‘Hutch’, a gay man who takes his cases very seriously. This one hits too close to home, and he’s having a difficult time remaining detached. He also has a special ability to get into the mind of a killer that makes him feel as if he’s crazy, deviant, or ‘splintered’. Hutch works with two partners, Byte and Granite (nicknames) who are incredibly well drawn secondary characters. The banter between them is worth the price of admission.
Their investigation leads them to Noah, a forensic psychology major at the local University, and he unwittingly becomes a target of the serial killer, who is using him to get to Hutch. As it turns out, Noah has a major man crush on Hutch, having followed his career. Noah also has his own ghosts in his past, and these two seem fated to fall in love. But do they? I dunno.
I’m not a huge fan of vague HFN’s, and this one fell into that category for me. But, I’m thinking that the author intended this book to be geared more toward the serial killer plot, and not the romance. Since it’s an incredibly well-written storyline (I also happen to be a true crime fan!), I absolutely adored this book from that standpoint. Based on the quality of the story and the writing, I could easily see Splintered on the NY Times bestseller list alongside Chelsea Cain (hopefully, knocking her self-entitled butt right off of it at the same time).
However, because Splintered is so focused on the plot of the serial killer and the chase to catch him, adding one very wonderfully explicit sex scene between the two MC’s about two-thirds into the book – then never having them get together again – seemed out of place. There was no reason to have that scene. Look – I’m all about explicit sex and lots of it, but inserted (*ahem*) into this story in the middle of the tension packed hunt for a vicious killer struck me as odd. It didn’t help that the lead up to their interlude was peppered with the requisite ‘hot ass’ comments and breathless lustful thoughts. I relish and look forward to those comments and multiple sex scenes in my M/M romances, but the tone of this book didn’t lend itself to such a scene.
There were also some indications that there was a reason that Hutch didn’t want to share about his ‘ability’ to get into the killer’s heads. Unfortunately, that was never fully explained. I’m hoping that this might – combined with the HFN – be a set-up for a sequel with these characters. Please???? I think that would make the abrupt HFN ending more palatable for me. As it stood, I kept waiting for the ‘grand reunion’ with the expected round of hot sex. Don’t look for it. Won’t be there. I won’t give any spoilers, you’ll just have to read it to find out how they leave things.
And yes, you must read this. Especially if you even sorta like murder mysteries. It’s fast paced, witty, tense, and plot-driven. Definitely not to be missed. I give it 4 Claws.