Tallowwood by N.R. Walker

This title may be purchased from Amazon and is also available in KU.

Cold cases, murder, lies, and an unimaginable truth.

Sydney Detective August Shaw has spent the last decade of work solving cold cases. Since the death of his boyfriend eight years ago, August works alone, lives alone, is alone–and that’s exactly how he likes it. His work is his entire life, and he’s convinced a string of unsolved cold-case suicides are linked to what could be Australia’s worst ever serial killer. Problem is, no one believes him.

Senior Constable Jacob Porter loves his life in the small town of Tallowwood in the middle of the rainforests in northern New South Wales. He runs summer camps for the local Indigenous kids, plays rugby with his mates, has a close family, and he’s the local LGBTQIA+ Liaison and the Indigenous Liaison Officer.

When human remains are found in the camping grounds at Tallowwood Reserve, Jake’s new case turns out to be linked to August’s cold cases, and Jake agrees they’re not suicides at all. With Jacob now firmly in August’s corner, they face one hurdle after another. Even when more remains are found, they can’t seem to gain ground.
But when the body of a fellow police officer turns up under the same MO, it can’t be ignored anymore. August and Jake must trace the untraceable before the killer takes his next victim or before he stops one of them, permanently.

Rating: A-

N.R. Walker’s Tallowwood is a darkly atmospheric and expertly crafted police procedural/romantic suspense novel in which a Sydney-based detective who specialises in cold cases is suddenly confronted with startling new evidence which may enable him to at long last bring to justice the person responsible for a string of murders of young gay men – one of them his own boyfriend.  The story takes place over a fairly short period of time, yet nothing feels rushed; the author builds the suspense superbly, especially in the last third or so, and at the same time develops a credible romantic relationship between the two leads which is touching and full of understated sensuality.

For the past eight years, Detective August Shaw has been trying to get someone to take seriously his belief that a serial killer is responsible for a number of unsolved murders of young gay men.  Each of the victims was posed to look as though their deaths were the result of suicide, and each was found with a piece of paper bearing a line from a Robert Frost poem and a small silver cross on or near the body.  It’s frustrating that nobody he works with is able or willing to make the connection, but he continues to work the case – alongside all the other cold cases that cross his desk – in the hope that one day, he’ll be able to get justice for these sons, brothers and friends, and to bring some sort of peace to their families.  He sees this as something he owes to every cold case victim; they’re not merely names on a piece of paper, they were people, loved ones who deserve to have their stories told. As someone who has suffered a similar tragic loss, he knows only too well the pain and sorrow of such an open wound on the soul.

When August is contacted by Senior Constable Jacob Porter of Tallowwood, a small town in the middle of the rainforests in northern New South Wales, August is prepared to turn down his request for help – until Porter tells him they have found human remains up there that may be related to one of August’s cases. The victim was gay, the death was made to look like a suicide – and there was a note and a silver cross in his pocket.  August makes arrangements to fly up to Tallowwood the next morning.

You can read the rest of this review at All About Romance.

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