Brushback by Jamie Scofield

Rating: 4.5/10 ★★★★½☆☆☆☆☆ 
Title: Brushback
Author: Jamie Scofield
Genre: Contemporary detective mystery
URL: Dancing Fool Press
Price: $US 4.99
Other Information/warnings: graphic violence (including against women), references to miscarriage.
Summary [from the publisher]:
It couldn’t be simpler. All Evan Austin needed to do was find R.J. Gibson before his eighteenth birthday and the kid would inherit a huge trust fund. Everybody would go home happy: R.J. would be set for life, the mom would appease her guilt, and maybe Evan would finally be able to put a tragic case from his past behind him.

But nothing in life is ever that easy. Adding to the confusion are a young woman whose boyfriend liked to slap her around and the murder of an Assistant U.S. District Attorney, for which one of Evan’s former clients is now a suspect. Throw in his growing attraction to R.J.’s guardian, artist Roman Cavanaugh, plus the Mariners having another really bad season, and Evan’s got a bit more on his plate than he can handle.

Not that it’s ever stopped him before.

My review: The minimum I ask for in any book with a central character is that he or she be good at their job. If they’re a hero, they should be brave and clever. If they’re a doctor, they should be a really terrific doctor. And if they’re a private detective, they should have an IQ higher than your average houseplant.

Which is where Evan Austin fails. He’s an idiot. I got sick of counting the places where he did something so conspicuously stupid, which of course led to some disaster or other for him or someone else. If you’re offered a job against your better judgement and it stinks to high heaven, why don’t you ask some questions, hmmm? If you suspect the bad guys might be after the poor innocent good guys, then why doesn’t it occur to you the bad guys might have you tailed? If you’re being lured to a place so you can be beaten up, and the reader can tell even if you can’t, then you’re just not very good at your job. If you spot a clause in a document which gives an gold-plated motive to already known villains of a murderous bent to *murder* someone, then you don’t just forget about that motive and act all shocked and amazed when duh, someone tries to kill that other person.

Not only is the central character an idiot, this story is padded to hell and back with at least two completely unnecessary subplots – one concerning Evan’s ex-lover who has no other role to play in the story except turn up and show that Evan had Moved On; and the other, a rather unpleasantly racist drama about a drug-dealing black man and the woman he beats up on from time to time. Nothing stereotyped about that portrayal, no sirree. This long subplot also has nothing whatsoever to do with the main plot, and appears to exist to provide hurt/comfort opportunities and to show that Evan is a completely useless detective kind and wonderful to women unlike those black guys. Add in the frequent dumps of back story about Evan’s parents, his hairdresser, his preferences in home improvement and other supposedly character-building detail which slow the already leaden pace of this story to a standstill, and you have 114,500 words which could have been 70,000 without losing anything essential to the plot or to our understanding of the character. Even in the bits of the story which actually advance the action, there was too much padding in the style. Detective stories need to be lean and mean and sharp. This was like a stale zucchini – flaccid and unappealing.

The characters don’t compensate for the turgid story telling. Evan is hardly mesmerising. Roman Cavanaugh is a decent sort, but he never comes alive, nor does his ward, R. J. Evan’s fascination with the villain later in the story was not mirrored in me, and ten minutes after finishing this overlong and overwritten epic, I couldn’t have told you anything about these people except Evan was white. Because he doesn’t beat up ladies or deal drugs, and punishes those who do. I certainly didn’t care what he did next.

This book reminded me why I so rarely pay for gay fiction, especially m/m. This was a dully written, poorly edited novel, with missing/extraneous words, and a female character’s surname changing back and forth between Williams and Washington. A book should leave you sorry it was over, but satisfied in how it ends. This did neither.

A time waster, but nothing more.