September saw us read a mystery book for the book club! We selected Orientation by Gregory Ashe, an ownvoices m/m novel. For once, though, we didn’t have mixed reactions over this book. In fact, we had remarkably similar views (bets on how that lasts for the next book?). Part of that was because, yeah, there are quite a few content warnings for this (we’ve tried to list them all, but please let us know if we’ve missed any!) and they felt almost gratuitous at times.
So, did we like it? You’ll have to read on to find out!
One last thing first: you can find our October read here, and look out for the twitter chat we’re planning at the end of the month!
Rep: gay mcs
TWs: graphic descriptions of violence, blood, vomiting, physical abuse, domestic abuse, murder, homophobia
Shaw and North are best friends, private detectives, and in danger of losing their agency. A single bad case, followed by crippling lawsuits, has put them on the brink of closing shop. Until, that is, a client walks into their Benton Park office.
Matty Fennmore is young, blond, and beautiful, and he’s in danger. When he asks for Shaw and North’s help foiling a blackmail scheme, the detectives are quick to accept.
The conspiracy surrounding Matty runs deeper than Shaw and North expect. As they dig into the identity of Matty’s blackmailer, they are caught in a web that touches politicians, the local LGBT community, and the city’s police.
An attack on Matty drives home the rising stakes of the case, and Shaw and North must race to find the blackmailer before he can silence Matty. But a budding romance lays bare long-buried feelings between Shaw and North, and as their relationship splinters, solving the case may come at the cost of their friendship.
Rating: 3.5/5 🌈
I knew, before going into this book, what to expect. Gregory Ashe’s Hazard and Somerset series is in much the same vein as this (fucked-up mystery, gay protags facing subtle and not-so-subtle homophobia – though to be fair there’s distinctly less of that here). I think if I hadn’t known, sure I might have liked it less. And I definitely liked it a little less than Hazard and Somerset. However, in the end, it’s a good gay ownvoices mystery, and one I enjoyed.
The best part of this book had to be the friends to lovers storyline. I say “to lovers”, but they don’t actually get together until the end of book 2 (I checked). So it’s that kind of slowburn. But it also has what so many friends to lovers stories miss out. Pining. You know the sort you see a lot of in fic, but never seems to translate over into original novels. Well, here, there is all the pining and I think it’s unrequited angst you could wish for. It’s beautiful, and it’s probably what made me give that book an extra half star. So, sure, the slowburn isn’t as long and painful as Hazard and Somerset (a four-book-long slowburn is some kind of torture, let me tell you), but the quality of it… Beautiful.
Anything I didn’t like so much? Just how fucked up Gregory Ashe’s mysteries always are. And I know book 2 is just gonna ramp that up even more. Is it too much to ask for you to tone it down, Gregory?
Rating: 3/5 🌈
I haven’t read a mystery book since my hyper fixation with Agatha Christie’s books back in elementary school (I did plan on reading everything she wrote & actually had a list to track my progress but nevermind). So this would have been an experience for me, regardless of the book we needed up choosing. But with Orientation it turned out to truly be an Experience™ and one that wasn’t particularly great all the way through.
First things first, the writing is good. The characters are really well fleshed out and I honestly like both Shaw & North. The pining drips from every look and word they exchange and it’s marvelous. The fact that there basically isn’t a straight character in sight is also, of course, a plus.
But then we get into the mystery part of this mystery. And it’s not really that mysterious at all. It tries to cover that up with shock and trauma and blood. And here we come to the crux of the matter, really. Because, you see, I don’t enjoy reading gore, I don’t enjoy actual vivid scenes of people trying to hurt each other and to kill each other. And you can’t skip those over in Orientation, because you will be left with pretty much nothing.
So is it a bad book? Not at all! But it definitely wasn’t a book for me. I’m glad I tried to expand my horizons but I learned my lesson, thank you very much.
Did you read along with us? What did you think?