Genre: Detective, Mystery
LGBTQ+ Category: MM Gay
Reviewer: Ulysses, Paranormal Romance Guild; Maryann
About The Book
This is Xenia Melzer’s first foray into murder mysteries, and it’s a good one. If the prose is not precisely gripping, the plot is, and the paranormal premise is superbly creepy. Also, the characters are wonderfully fleshed out, which is critical because the interactions between George Donovan and Andi Hayes give the book an emotional center that takes it beyond considerations of plot alone.
Andrew Hayes, known as Andi, is a hugely successful young homicide detective on the Charleston, South Carolina, police force. However, he’s a misanthropic grouch, and has been largely left alone to do his job. However, when an up-and-coming narcotics cop wants to move into homicide and gets a position in Charleston, he’s asked to partner with Hayes to monitor him. George Donovan instantly wonders at his new chief’s request, but sees working with Hayes as one more step in his career-driven ambition.
The surprise is that Donovan sees through Andi Hayes’s surly manner to recognize someone who is desperately alone. Instead of simply using Hayes as a tool to please his new boss and further his own career, Donovan gradually befriends of oddball loner and finds his efforts rewarded.
The twist in this story is that Andi Hayes has a special skill—a superpower, if you will; but one that is very much a double-edged sword. Andi can communicate with insects, all insects, and bugs and arachnids; indeed the whole phylum arthropoda. He can’t really talk to them, but he can hear them, all at once, and has learned to interpret what they say.
I tried this premise out on a friend as we were taking a walk in the woods this morning, without revealing anything about how it works in the book. His instant response was: “there are so many insects around us all the time—that would drive me crazy.”
Exactly what the author had in mind.
Andi’s success as a homicide detective comes at the cost of his own peace. He has learned to screen out the arthropods to some degree, but he can never really have any quiet. He also can never share his secret with anyone for fear of being considered insane. His surly personality is his only defense against the sort of human closeness that would jeopardize his secret.
Melzer’s use of the insect voices is eerie and quite compelling. Andi’s commitment to justice—in the context of a pretty horrific crime—and his self-sacrifice to the voices of the insect world to find criminals, make him a weirdly sympathetic character. George Donovan sees this, and his sensitivity, which overrides even his own ambition, ultimately opens a pathway to an unlikely friendship between him and Andi. Their professional partnership goes beyond work, as George finds himself trying hard to protect Andi from those who don’t understand him. Andi, for his part, finds himself the object of genuine caring for the first time in his life.
If I have a complaint about this book, it’s that Andi and George’s friendship stops just short of where I want it to go. Is Melzer going to take this friendship at step further in the next book? Ever? As much as I liked her handling of the paranormal twist to the plot, I was not, ultimately, satisfied with Andi and George’s relationship. I guess I’ll have to see what happens in the next book.
Andrew “Andi” Hayes is smart and an accomplished detective in the Charleston PD. He’s not very social, doesn’t want a partner and is very grumpy all the time. His former Chief left him on his own, to do what he does best, and that’s to close cases.
The new Chief, Amanda Norris, has it out for Andi. She doesn’t trust him and believes he’s closing cases illegally. Even though Andi feels lonely, he knows there’s no recourse for his geschenk. The geschenk will take a toll on Andi, to the point of death, if he can’t control it. If he ever reveals it or if it’s discovered, it could lead to devastation for him.
George Donovan is new to the Charleston PD, but not new to being an expert detective – formerly from narcotics. George, coming from a very competitive family, has focused totally on his career. Charleston is just another stepping stone on his way up the ladder. He’s likable enough, but his focus on his job has left him with few friends. He’s been assigned to be partners with the difficult Andi by Chief Norris. But with one condition – Norris wants George to “spy” on Andi to see if what he’s doing to close his cases is illegal.
George isn’t sure how to proceed with Andi Hayes, but get’s some advice from co-worker Rose. Gradually George gets a routine going. As they get deeper into possible corruption and an ugly case involving death and human trafficking, George’s mind is in turmoil about Andi. As their struggling partnership and friendship starts to grow will Andi break down and tell George about his geschenk, or will it slowly kill him?
This is a first time read for me from Xenia Melzer, and I was not disappointed! The title alone had me intrigued! “Arthropoda” has a bit of a dark theme, as well as suspense, fast paced action, tense moments, a surprise ending, and is creepy too, with a unique investigation technique. The plot involves corruption, human trafficking and a very unique type of informant. I’m a follower of a variety of murder mysteries but have never run across one that has to do with arthropoda – an amazing and creative idea from Xenia Melzer!
I like Andi and George, and there’s still so much to find out about them. I think the slow process that focuses on trust, friendship, and a working partnership makes their characters stand out even more. They have to learn and adjust to accept each other and build a true, solid understanding. Andi is just amazing – I don’t know how he’s survived this long! George was really impressive too, a life saver for Andi.
There are also some very interesting secondary characters: Shireen, IT guru, and Evangeline Melcort, coroner, as well as Lewis Brackenport, an attorney. They all seem to have a respect for Andi.
There were two characters that I also found to be outstanding: Daniel Donovan, older brother to George. He always can be called upon to give George some well needed advice. And SWAT leader, Adam Forard, who has no problem with Andi and is always ready to respond.
I highly recommend this exciting page-turner and I will be a new follower of the “An Andi Hayes Mystery” series. Xenia Melzer is bringing Andi and George back in the next novel “Eruca” – I can’t wait to see what’s in store for them!
Ulysses Grant Dietz grew up in Syracuse, New York, where his Leave It to Beaver life was enlivened by his fascination with vampires, from Bela Lugosi to Barnabas Collins. He studied French at Yale, and was trained to be a museum curator at the University of Delaware. A curator since 1980, Ulysses has never stopped writing fiction for the sheer pleasure of it. He created the character of Desmond Beckwith in 1988 as his personal response to Anne Rice’s landmark novels. Alyson Books released his first novel, Desmond, in 1998. Vampire in Suburbia, the sequel to Desmond, is his second novel.
Ulysses lives in suburban New Jersey with his husband of over 41 years and their two almost-grown children.
By the way, the name Ulysses was not his parents’ idea of a joke: he is a great-great grandson of Ulysses S. Grant, and his mother was the President’s last living great-grandchild. Every year on April 27 he gives a speech at Grant’s Tomb in New York City.
Hi, I’m Maryann, I started life in New York, moved to New Hampshire and in 1965 uprooted again to Sacramento, California. Once I retired I moved to West Palm Beach, Florida in 2011 and just moved back to Sacramento in March of 2018. My son, his wife and step-daughter flew out to Florida and we road tripped back so they got to see sights they have never seen. New Orleans and the Grand Canyon were the highlights. Now I am back on the west coast again to stay! From a young age Ialways liked to read.
I remember going to the library and reading the “Doctor Dolittle” books by Hugh Lofting. Much later on became a big fan of the classics, Edgar Alan Poe, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker and as time went by Agatha Christie, Ray Bradbury and Stephen Kingand many other authors.
My first M/M shifter book I read was written by Jan Irving the “Uncommon Cowboys” series from 2012. She was the first author I ever contacted and sent an email to letting her know how much I liked this series. Sometime along the way I read “Zero to the Bone”by Jane Seville, I think just about everyone has read this book!
As it stands right now I’m really into mysteries, grit, gore and “triggers” don’t bother me. But if a blurb piques my interest I will read the book.
My kindle collection eclectic and over three thousand books and my Audible collection is slowly growing. I have both the kindle and audible apps on my ipod, ipads, and MAC. So there is never an excuse not to be listening or reading.
I joined Goodreads around 2012 and started posting reviews. One day a wonderful lady, Lisa Horan of The Novel Approach, sent me an email to see if I wanted to join her review group. Joining her site was such an eye opener. I got introduce to so many new authors that write for the LGBTQ genre. Needless to say, it was heart breaking when it ended.
But I found a really great site, QRI and it’s right here in Sacramento. Last year at QSAC I actually got to meet Scott Coatsworth, Amy Lane and Jeff Adams.
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