Heat Trap by JL Merrow

Heat Trap by JL Merrow
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense, Action/Adventure
Length: Full Length (200 pgs)
Other: M/M, anal sex
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Cactus

The wrong secret could flush their love down the drain.

It’s been six months since plumber Tom Paretski was hit with a shocking revelation about his family. His lover, P.I. Phil Morrison, is pushing this as an ideal opportunity for Tom to try to develop his psychic talent for finding things. Tom would prefer to avoid the subject altogether, but just as he decides to bite the bullet, worse problems come crawling out of the woodwork.

Marianne, a young barmaid at the Devil’s Dyke pub, has an ex who won’t accept things are over between them. Grant Carey is ruthless in dealing with anyone who gets between him and Marianne, including an old friend of Tom and Phil. Their eagerness to step in and help only makes them targets of Grant’s wrath themselves.

With Tom’s uncertainty about Phil’s motives, Tom’s family doing their best to drive a wedge between them, and the revelation of an ugly incident in Phil’s past, suddenly Tom’s not sure whom he can trust.

The body in the Dyke’s cellar isn’t the only thing that stinks.

A quick witted plumber and his PI lover have never been a better combination. In the third installment of the Plumber’s Mate series Tom and Phil are plunged into a case involving their local bar pub. The waitress is being hassled by her ex-boyfriend and said ex has no problem getting dirty with anyone who shows even a friendly interest. Phil can’t help being involved but when Tom is threatened the danger is ratcheted up a notch. Now Tom and Phil are at odds when revelations of Phil’s past come out. With so much at stake, Tom must decide what is really important and what is a deal breaker for both his relationship and his family.

Heat Trap is another great addition to the series but it’s not best read alone. I’d recommend readers start at the beginning of the series to fully understand the complexity of Phil and Tom’s relationship. Although there are enough clues and background information provided to remind readers of where things are, new readers may miss some important nuance. That said this turn is much more personal than previous books. The mystery is a whodunit with a resolution that comes kind of out of nowhere. I didn’t particularly mind but it felt as if the author wasn’t sure where the mystery was going sometimes and it made me uneasy as a reader.

That said the relationship progression between Phil and Tom is the most important aspect of the story with the mystery as the backbone to allow certain information offered and circumstances to occur. Phil and Tom are interesting, complicated characters but I do think once again the story suffers from only getting Tom’s perspective. As the narrator he’s clearly biased and I didn’t always agree with the conclusions he drew, especially in regards to Phil. Some of Phil’s actions and acceptance of Tom’s actions confused me and I would have dearly loved to see inside Phil’s head and what he was thinking during those scenes. Tom is a flawed and deeply three-dimensional character but due to the lack of Phil’s POV, Phil simply isn’t as well defined unfortunately.

This may or may not be an issue for readers since the writing is once again clean and evocative with Merrow’s great touch of humor and description. The British setting is a character all of its own and a deeply welcome one as well. I find this series very enjoyable and easy to read, pages fly by before I even notice, but none of the books have quite lived up to the first. That’s mostly because the mystery was the best in the first book while the relationship aspect is better in subsequent books. It all depends which plot readers are more drawn to I think. Either way this is a fun series and easy to recommend.

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