book reviews · m/m romance

Book Review: Kaje Harper’s “Tracefinder: Contact” (Tracefinder #1) (2016)

28357990Woo-hoo, I have a new author obsession!! Harper’s writing is fantastic, and there’s so many books for me to look forward to reading! I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to discover Kaje Harper. Tracefinder is my first Harper book, and I was hooked from the very first chapter.

This book has all the best qualities of the “cop drama”: the cop talk, inter-departmental tension and intrigue, the undercover mission that’s soon compromised by the feelings of the cop for those he’s trying to catch out. Chilli dogs. Dodgy bars. So good!

But importantly, it also stands out from the crowd of M/M romance in a number of ways. The author doesn’t give us two mouth-wateringly attractive, burly men; we have the (admittedly, very attractive) Nick and- Brian. Ahh, Brian. I adored him. I think many readers will as well. I wanted to protect him and give him all the good things in the world. But he’s certainly not the standard love-interest, and that is excellent.

Tracefinder is not a straightforward book: it’s going to make you think, not the least about the moral and ethical issues it raises. I think the author has left room for the reader to decide for themselves if they’d consider Brian impaired in any way; aside from the untreated dyslexia, does he have an intellectual disability, is he challenged, to what extent has his childhood trauma damaged him irrevocably? And more importantly, how does this affect his friendship- relationship- with Nick? How should Nick be responding to Brian’s interest- where do his responsibilities lie? These are not simple questions that Harper is exploring, and I think it is done quite bravely. Any conclusions that the story reaches are tentative, ambiguous, uncertain. This book very well may challenge your feelings on intellectual disabilities and relationships- on difference and sexuality.

The supernatural element of this story- Brian’s ability- integrates into the plot seamlessly, naturally; it adds a really nice dimension to the plot, and a lot of emotional turmoil and depth to Brian’s character. Harper has hinted- very, very lightly- that other supernatural items or abilities may exist in this world, but has wisely left Brian’s as the only one that is made explicit. It means that the story retains a sharp realism, and at no time does Brian’s ability feel like a convenient plot device- it is the plot.

My absolute favourite thing about this book is that it continues for many chapters after the standard “end” of the plot. It doesn’t stop at the end of the undercover mission, it keeps going, giving us the reactions of the characters, their struggles to respond to what they have been through, to deal with the fallout. This is what I love to read. And by giving this part of the plot the time and tension it deserves, Harper shows that these domestic, practical, emotional elements of the characters’ journeys are just as important as the external plot. Also, there’s a dog. It’s wonderful.

The book leaves the reader very curious to know what happens next- never fear, the sequel is ready for you to read. Jump into this book and see what you think; even if you don’t agree with the characters’ decisions, I am sure you will enjoy the journey!

{Summary from Amazon.com:}
What could an undercover cop and a drug lord’s pet psychic have in common?

Brian Kerr has spent years hiding behind a facade of mental slowness. His brother and sister got all three of them off the streets and into a cushy life, under the protection of a dangerous criminal. But to keep that safety, Brian has to use his Finding talent to track down the boss’s enemies. Although he pretends not to know what he’s really doing, each Find takes its toll, and he’s trapped in a life he hates, losing touch with his true self.

Nick Rugo’s job is to protect and serve the people of Minneapolis as an undercover cop. He isn’t closeted, but he isn’t out at work, and there’s a wild, angry side to him that he’s managed to keep hidden until now. When he’s assigned to bring Brian’s boss to justice, he intends to use anything and anyone it takes to do that.

Nick initially sees Brian as a pawn to be played in his case, but he keeps getting glimpses of a different man behind the slow, simpleminded mask. As the two men get to know each other, it becomes clear they share secrets, some of which might get them both killed.

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