J.T Hall is a new author to me. The blurb for Murder Once Seen caught my interest, promising a mix of urban fantasy, dystopia, paranormal, mystery, and suspense, with a dash of (light) BDSM. The author managed to wield this melting pot of genres quite nicely, and I felt the book delivered on its promise. It did feel a bit uneven, but overall I enjoyed it.
Derwin, the bounty hunter, hooks up with Elliot, the rent boy, to get his pain fix for his Oddity (see blurb). Derwin discovers Elliot’s ability to see scenes from people’s past by touching their personal items with his palms. Derwin convinces Elliot to help him search for his boyfriend’s killer, since Elliot is able to uncover new clues with the help of his Oddity.
Derwin and Elliot made for some interesting characters. Their attraction to each other was instant and explosive. Their wariness and distrust, that seems to infuse this world, morphed into trust and something deeper. They were really sweet together. Two lost souls slowly mending each other’s different wounds.
I really enjoyed the world build and the look I got into this urban/dystopian future. While I enjoyed it, I felt it wasn’t fully explored. I hope the author will show me more of this world in the sequels, there is a lot of potential here.
The mystery and suspense were the somewhat weak parts. The bad guy was pretty obvious, so the mystery wasn’t much of a mystery, more like following big flashing signs. The way Elliot used his abilities underway was cool, even though it made him see some unpleasant things.
There was a scene in the book that took me totally off guard. It had to do with the publisher’s warning of sexual assault and dubious consent that I didn’t know about until writing this review (I’ve included the warning in the blurb above). It involved Elliot and one of his clients (he is a rentboy by profession after all in this book), who is the leader of the gang controlling the section of the city where Elliot, his Madame and her stable of prostitutes operate. Elliot had to do the session with the sadistic gang leader to keep Elliot and the others working the street safe from the gang.
The scene was graphic with violence and dub con/non con sex. I wasn’t expecting it at all, and found it very unpleasant. I’m not strictly opposed to reading a scene like that, but I really want to know beforehand, so I know to expect it. I’m giving Riptide an annoyed side eye here, since they really ought to include the warning in the blurb, and not just have it on a separate section under the book on their website. The warning is not listed on Amazon or Goodreads, so an unsuspecting reader might pick up this book getting more than they bargained for.
This explicit scene notwithstanding, I enjoyed reading Murder Once Seen since I’m a sucker for urban fantasy, dystopian, paranormal, and mystery and murder. I do feel like the author tried to include or mix together too many genres and plot points, that it fell short in some areas, like the mystery. It might have been a tighter story focusing on fewer plot points, but exploring those few more. However, the world build was intriguing with its demons and Oddites. I liked Elliot and Derwin, and they were perfect for each other. I liked that they had to work to develop their relationship, even though they initially were insta-love/lust.
The story has a HEA, or more like HFN since turn of events set the stage for a sequel. I’m pretty sure I’ll be reading the next installment wanting to see more of Derwin and Elliot in their world.