Reviewed by Carissa
TITLE: Dead in the Desert
SERIES: L.A. Paranormal #3
AUTHOR: Lou Harper
PUBLISHER: Harper Books
LENGTH: 111 pages
BLURB: Jon Cooper used to think he wanted a life free of complications, but that was before he got involved with his roommate, Leander. Jon knows that the only thing he can’t lose is what he doesn’t have, but where does that leave him?
Leander Thorne, on the other hand, is an easygoing bookworm, with an addiction to books and cooking shows, and a soft spot for Jon, despite Jon’s grumpiness. He also happens to be a psychic specializing in finding lost pets and—more recently—lost people. He’s good at it. Too good if you ask Jon.
Unsolved crimes, missing people and bodies buried in the Mojave Desert make Jon’s and Leander’s lives anything but uncomplicated. Jon is forced to dig into his soul and find a way to let go of his past if he wants to keep Leander.
If you are Leander Thorne, finding bodies in the middle of the sweltering desert is easy. It’s the living that are giving him fits. When hired by a high-priced lawyer to find Ethan, the beneficiary of a multi-million dollar bequeathment, Leander and his lover Jon Cooper, set out after the ever winding trail of a man with a dark past and even murkier present. But with a bevy of unhelpful relatives and a rather impressive vanishing act by the young man, Andy and Jon are left with no more to go on than a single photo and a rather nasty family history of feeding the gators…with other people’s hands.
If you are Jon Cooper, you know nothing lasts forever. With both a wife and career lost in a car accident, Jon has learned that the “only thing you couldn’t lose was what you didn’t have.” But no matter how hard he tries to hold himself back he finds himself falling for his book-addicted psychic roommate, Andy. When Andy, once again, throws himself into the dangerous world of dead people and annoying homicide detectives, Jon finds himself struggling to keep his lover from getting killed, and himself from falling so far that his heart breaks the fall. But on this crazy ride from the baked Mojave to the shores of Santa Monica, Jon might just find that there worse things than finding yourself dead in the desert.
Dead in the Desert is the third story in the L.A. Paranormal Series by Lou Harper (both of the previous stories can be found together in Dead in L.A.), and while I don’t think you will find yourself too out of sorts if you wish to start reading about Jon and Andy in this book, I would thoroughly recommend picking up and reading the previous stories in the series. A lot of the backstory between Jon and Andy, as well as between Jon and his late wife, happen in Dead in L.A. and it will help you understand some of the reasoning behind Jon’s actions in this book.
I was thrilled when I heard that there would be a third story in this series. I fell in love with these two when I read Dead in L.A. and had not thought that I would be getting any more from this couple. So the release of Dead in the Desert was a real nice surprise. I would have liked the story to be a little longer, and maybe a tad bit more dark (even with body-chopping serial killers it read as a nice light read), but I was so totally in love with this complex but heartfelt relationship between Leander and Jon, that the slight loss depth didn’t overly affect my reading of the story.
Strange as it may seem, it is not the crazy life of Leander, the (I keep wanting to call him a psychic pet-detective, but then I get flashbacks of Jim Carrey in Ace Ventura) psychic and finder of all things missing and buried, that these books focus on. Instead we get told the story of Jon, the slightly disgruntled art student who has found himself thrown into the odd world of being friend, lover, and self-appointed guard of his bookaholic roommate. Andy is the–this is going to sound corny–wind behind Jon’s sails (yep, that sounded just as sappy I thought it would). He moves Jon, he steers him into new waters, and pushes him over that dreaded horizon. Jon, in return, protects Andy from annoyingly insistent cops and makes sure the younger man has more than ramen noodles to eat. He also tries to help Leander work his way through the mess of images in his head–though I very much doubt that Indiana Jones had much to do with the vanishing act Ethan pulled. He doesn’t think Andy can’t do these things for himself, but his drive to protect is just whoJonis. I find it nice that they both have something to offer each other–neither one wants to be the sole focus or the sole giver in the relationship. And it is a relationship, no matter how willfully blind Jon is intent on being.
Jon has a tendency to remind me of child willfully declaring he doesn’t like chocolate, all the while the chocolate frosting drips from his chin and hair onto the floor below him. He says he can’t love Andy, not because he thinks Andy is unlovable, but because he knows just how hard he can crash when that love is ripped away. But just as “places too, lived and died like people,” Jon needs to see that they do live. No you can’t fight death, but not everything is crumpled fish bones on the shore of a salt-thick lake. There are lunches by the ocean and feet tucked warmly beneath your thighs so as to keep out the cold. There is also alfresco sex on the side of hills overlooking the world below, and simply remembering the good things…things like stifling moans and “rutting against each other in a stubborn reaffirmation of life.”
One of the things I love so much about his book is the fact that Jon is trying to grow and learn that there is life after all that death. He is learning that the weight of Andy against him at night is a comfort that might not replace a broken past, but it does fill in the cracks on a broken heart. The chemistry between these two is hot, but it is like a nice cup of tea. Hot and sweet, with a splash of cream to top it off. I find it soothing and a tad bit addictive. That they can also laugh and play together is big plus as well. They have such wonderful humor in the rest of their lives it would be a pity if they got serious every time they got naked.
The humor in this story was fantastic. It felt settled, like it is not trying to be funny, it just was. This is who Jon is. Who Andy is. No forcing it, no pushing to get a laugh from the readers–but letting us see the quirky and sometimes dirty humor that these two had. Whether it is the jokes of a couple growing into themselves–“What, you won’t love me anymore if I am bald?”–or Jon’s dry humor–“Cop were distrustful; they always wanted to know why you decided to dig a hole in the middle of nowhere.”–you are left smiling the whole way through the book.
It is hard to say much about the mystery without giving away all those lovely little twist and turns, but let’s just say that Andy has one hell of a job cut out for him this time. And it doesn’t help that he keeps running across dead people that aren’t even his to find. While I would have loved to see some grand reveal like in one of Andy’s loved Agatha Christie mysteries, I think I might just like the ending of this mystery a lot better. After all, for me, it is watching Jon and Andy dance around each other that is so much fun. The dead people are just icing on the cake (and doesn’t that make me sound like a prime candidate for those lovely white jumpers and padded rooms).
Four stars for a mystery that kept me guessing and a love that kept me hoping. This book is definitely going on to my re-read pile and I am looking forward to any other stories that Harper can give us with these two. Read this when you find yourself needing a laugh or needing to smile over what fools we all be, when we be in love.
Carissa is the newest official reviewer on The Blog of Sid Love.
I take this opportunity to welcome her to our fabulous team