Title: Son of a Gun
Author: A.M. Riley
Publisher: Loose Id
Characters: Stefan Sanchez, Dale Evans, Chet Blain
Sub-Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense, Erotic Romance
Stefan Sanchez’s number one reason to flee Boerne, Texas twelve years ago, was closeted deputy Chet Blain. Since then he has lived in Los Angeles, become a successful author of children’s books and managed his sexual relationships with a certain cool cynicism.
When Stefan returns to Texas for the funeral of his best friend, Tommy, he is confronted by painful memories: His infamous father, shot as a traitor, his alcoholic mother, and Chet, who seems to want to start their old painful relationship all over again. Added to this is a missing widow, drugs in the trunk of his rental car, and a hunky Secret Service agent who seems determined to make Stefan’s business his business.
It all ends in a mad chase across the infamously haunted Devil’s backbone where ghosts from the past and personal demons in the present all conspire to give Stefan a chance to close the book on his childhood forever… or die trying.
Stefan has several good reasons for being a prick. One, the love of his life is a closeted gay deputy who has no reason to come out since Stefan is willing to do anything for him at the drop of a hat. Two, his father apparently committed treason, drug-running, and money laundering, and was shot and killed when Stefan was just a kid, and he’s learned to hate his own face. Three, his best friend, Tommy O’Connor, has just died in what seems like a hunting accident, and Stefan has to return to his old stomping grounds for the funeral.
But then he begins to suspect foul play. When he’s arrested with the trunk of his rental car full of drugs, his suspicions become confirmed. But is there a conspiracy of treasonous proportions or is his paranoia making him see movement in the shadows when there is none? His old buddy Chet and a mysterious secret service agent Evans always seem to be there when Stefan is searching for answers. Tommy’s wife has disappeared, and no one seems concerned. The whole O’Connor clan seems to have something to hide, and no one is willing to answer Stefan’s questions. So, he goes off on his own, with Chet and Evans hot on his trail.
This story has a very realistic feel to it. The people have their faults and weaknesses. Stefan, for one, has a chink in his armor: Chet, the man who will never commit to him. Stefan knows this, but always falls for Chet’s advances. And then there’s Evans, the sexy agent who hovers behind every step Stefan takes. But can Evans be trusted? Can even Chet be trusted?
Stefan goes through a hard path of personal discovery throughout this story. He faces his past, struggles to free himself of the confines of secrets, and lies surrounding him. And the people who saved him from the mire of the aftermath of his father’s treason all begin to show their true selves after so many years.
This is first and foremost Stefan’s story. This is in the third person, but his is the only inner voice we hear. That seems like a good choice since it leaves the reader in the dark about who to trust and into whose arms Stefan should fall. Stefan is not the most likeable person. He’s snarky and cynical, he smokes way too much, and he’s nosy to the point of imminent danger. But when we learn about him, how much he dislikes himself, his own heritage, the mistakes he’s made, well, they make him sympathetic. And with his curiosity rising ours is peaked as well.
The erotic content is small on this one. We get opposite scenes of sex: Chet’s selfish need vs. Evans’s odd instinctive connection with Stefan. We’re left wondering who is really deserving of love here. Not that we hear that word spoken. Stefan has learned not to believe in things like that, burned too many times with his own expectations. But dealing with Chet and coming to know Evans gives Stefan an opportunity to show he can lay the past to rest and move on with his life, and perhaps even take a chance on another.
I liked this story quite a bit. The mystery is not particularly complex, but it’s the feelings these plot twists put Stefan through that matter in the end. Yes, I thought the discussions with Chet became a bit repetitive after a while, which made me remove half a star. Evans remained something of a mystery to the very end, but I liked him and his deep engrained sense of honor. And with Evans Stefan becomes a new man, maybe a bit more hopeful, which was a welcome change for the better.
Recommended for all those who like realistic murder mysteries, chases through the wilderness of Texas, and a chain-smoking man who always has a snarky comeback.
Reviewed By: Susan