Pressure Head by JL Merrow

Pressure Head by JL Merrow
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (260 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal Sex
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Cactus

Some secrets are better left hidden.

The Plumber’s Mate, Book 1

To most of the world, Tom Paretski is just a plumber with a cheeky attitude and a dodgy hip, souvenir of a schoolboy accident. The local police keep his number on file for a different reason—his sixth sense for finding hidden things.

When he’s called in to help locate the body of a missing woman up on Nomansland Common, he unexpectedly encounters someone who resurrects a host of complicated emotions. Phil Morrison, Tom’s old school crush, now a private investigator working the same case. And the former bully partly responsible for Tom’s injury.

The shocks keep coming. Phil is now openly gay, and shows unmistakable signs of interest. Tom’s attraction to the big, blond investigator hasn’t changed—in fact, he’s even more desirable all grown up. But is Phil’s interest genuine, or does he only want to use Tom’s talent?

As the pile of complicated evidence surrounding the woman’s murder grows higher, so does the heat between Tom and Phil. But opening himself to this degree exposes Tom’s heart in a way he’s not sure he’s ready for…while the murderer’s trigger finger is getting increasingly twitchy.

Finding hidden things can be a gift worth killing over. Tom has a knack for finding old, hidden things. Not just anything, but objects with great emotion attached to them: secrets, bodies, and the ability to find leaks, which is handy in his day job as a plumber. On the side he occasionally helps the police find missing persons. In the latest case he found the dead body of a young woman that was dating a childhood friend of his. That friend hired another childhood associate turned private investigator, Phil. Phil and Tom have a sordid history as teens that ended in Tom having a permanent limp. The two somewhat reluctantly team up to find out the truth about the murder but can’t stop their personal feelings and past from interfering.

Pressure Head is the first in a new series by JL Merrow. Merrow is a great author and definitively one of my favorites for her sense of humor and distinctly British flair. There’s no question her books take place in the UK and it lends another layer of detail and interest to the story. There are so many mentions of specific neighborhoods and highways that I feel as if I could map the physical steps Tom and Phil take to solve the murder, which is simply delightful. Additionally the language, terminology, and British euphemisms make the story entertaining when they’re not commonplace to my very American sensibilities. It’s a very nice contrast to the usually bland backgrounds of contemporary books set in a familiar but unrecognizable setting.

The characters have incredible rapport and it’s to the story’s credit that they can make a romance and furthermore a relationship viable given the past between the two men. They come across as well developed, interesting, and complex in their own ways. I wish we’d gotten more insight into Phil’s thinking and motivations but Tom is a charming and engaging narrator. His humor and quick wit are sometimes over the top, I wish he’d stop with the quips on occasion, but I found him engrossing. Likewise the murder story offers a solid mystery with a seemingly endless option of culprits. The ending was over the top for me but nothing that detracted from my enjoyment. I found the explanation rational and believable, which made me like the story that much more.

I was surprised how quickly I read the story given that there isn’t a lot of action. However the budding romance between Tom and Phil as they stutter, stop, reverse, and step forward through the rocky path to their relationship offered a lot of interest. Additionally there is a whole cast of characters that are interesting in their right and help keep the story moving between the actual investigating. I especially liked that Tom seemed to really work at his day job as a plumber while trying to sleuth and have a social life. It made the story believable. This is an easy story to recommend for both mystery and romance fans as it satisfies on both levels and with the distinctly British flair it has a lot to engage even jaded readers.

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