A Guest Review by Jenre
Those of you who, like me, love watching thrilling action films will find this book exactly to your taste. In fact, I spent the majority of time whilst reading Zero at the Bone thinking what a great film it would make. It’s got all the right elements: A taciturn, reluctant, tortured hero; an honourable, personable, hero who appears helpless but has an inner strength; several different bad guys; shady government officials; action set pieces involving explosions, gun fights and car chases; betrayals; murders and underpinning the whole thing is a great love story between two seemingly opposite men.
The book begins as we meet D, a hit man and our reluctant hero. He is blackmailed into taking a job to kill our other hero, Jack, who is in witness protection, having witnessed a mob murder. However, D is a hit man with a conscience: He won’t kill people who aren’t already bad guys themselves. Jack, as a good, brave man who has given up his job and his life to testify against the mob, doesn’t fall into the ‘bad guy’ category and so D cannot kill him; even when he has the gun pointing at his head. Having been unable to carry out the hit, D realises that he now needs to protect Jack from the other hit men who would only be too glad to pick up where he has failed. He is also aware that the hit on Jack may not have been given to him by the mob guys, but may have come from another source; someone who was using Jack to get to D.
What follows is a breathtaking ride as we follow this odd couple into hiding. D feels that he is the only one who can save Jack, and the first part of the book concerns how they hide out from those who wish to kill Jack and frame D. I was amazed at all the little details that the author had included to make this as realistic as possible. Details such as how D gets weapons and money; how they manage to avoid being caught; the intricacies of how the hit men operate. All these ideas built up in the book so that I really believed that D had the know how and resources to back up his claims that he was the best person to protect Jack.
It is during these weeks that the pair are hiding out together that their relationship is developed. D starts the book being so closed-up in his feelings that he lives in a constant state of emotional denial. It takes Jack and his gentle, yet insistent probing to get D to open up and face some of the things that have happened in his past; things that led to him becoming a hit man. This part of the book was incredibly well done and when the men became intimate it was more than just a need for sex, but an opportunity for D to accept that he is able once again to have tender, sentimental feelings for another person.
The second half of the book is very action packed, with a court drama, and a final confrontation with the person who had betrayed D. Then the book shifts slightly as the characters are separated for a time before being reunited in a most satisfactory fashion. This part of the book was mostly about Jack: His feelings for D; how he copes with testifying; how he adjusts to a new life. Some readers may feel frustrated at this separation between the characters so late in the book, but I felt it was signposted throughout the book and gave us an opportunity to understand Jack better and to see how he has also grown and developed from the frightened man we see at the start of the book.
I have to admit, going back to the film analogy again, that this book reminded me rather of the last Lord of the Rings film because it had so many endings. Quite a number of times I felt that the book could have ended at that point, but no, here was another chapter, and another. This didn’t bother me too much and the final scene as they drove off into the sunset was a nice touch, and a nod once more as to how cinematic the book is. However, then we get to the epilogue during which things went downhill rather rapidly.
It’s an unfortunate fact that an epilogue can sometimes ruin the ending to a good book and I’m afraid this was definitely the case here. A good epilogue should be a snapshot of the lives of our main characters at some point in the future. It should be short and sweet. This epilogue was nothing like that. In fact I have to say that this did not read like an epilogue at all but rather like the first few chapters of a sequel. For a start it was too long, going on for pages and pages. Secondly, it introduced a whole slew of new characters. Thirdly, it brought in a new plot and themes, including a rather nasty description of a crime scene that D had to witness. In some ways I can understand the author wanting to set up a situation for a sequel, especially as I’ve heard that there is one in the pipeline. However, this didn’t leave me hungry for the next book: This was the next book and I wished that the author hadn’t included it here as it severely detracted from the lovely HEA at the end of the last chapter. What a shame.
Overall, until that epilogue, this book was a great read, a fantastic read and I highly recommend that you buy this book. However, take my advice and don’t read the epilogue – leave the last image you have in your mind the one of Jack and D, together at last, and not of a gruesome murder. Then, when the sequel comes out, go back and read the epilogue in preparation for the next book.