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Romance and other things


Unrated review

Tracefinder: Contact - Kaje Harper

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.


Dear Kaje Harper,

I think I just read a well written story (as your work usually is) which featured multilayered main characters, I am however leaving this book without a rating, because the romantic relationship squeaked me too much. At the same time I am not sure whether I correctly interpreted where you are going with the story arc for one of the guys and if my interpretation was wrong, maybe romance wasn’t as weird as I thought it was? Basically I had a headache trying to work out what the heck you were trying to do here but at the same time I think the book had a lot of depth and the guys were interesting.

Nick Rugo is a cop, who in his free time likes to go clubbing, play pool, and often punch people who deserve to be punched (like somebody tried to get the attention of the woman who did not want that and Nick punches him in the beginning of the book). He does not do anything more than that (apparently he needs to work out his aggression) and he is portrayed as a decent guy. During his visits to clubs he went to the club where local drug boss Mr. Marston goes too and Brian Kerr and his brother also appear. Basically Nick is kind of a familiar figure to them – not too familiar, but they saw him and noticed him a little bit.

“Here he was No-Knife Nick, known for starting fights as well as ending them. Also known for the time he took out a guy wielding a machete with one lucky punch. In this boonies dive bar, it was his claim to fame. Fists of steel, no knife needed”.

It became known that Nick frequents that club when certain crime occurs and after briefly checking that Nick was not involved, undercover operatives decide to ask Nick to get involved, since he is a little bit a familiar face to drug lord’s servants/employees and maybe they may skip the initial phase of trying to infiltrate the organization.

Nick agrees and his introduction to Marston’s organization slowly takes place and he slowly even manages to earn some trust and gather some evidence, nothing happens overnight, I actually really enjoyed reading about it. But then there is Brian. I should note that Brian has a crush on Nick since the time he saw him in the club.

Brian also has a supernatural talent – he can Find people, he can find them based on the trace they leave on the objects they often carried with them. This is the main reason Marston wants Brian and uses and abuses his talent and this is the main reason why he employs his brother (who is deep in some illegal shit) and that’s why he married their sister Lori (because he wants more supernatural talent to appear in the family). Mr. Marston uses Brian to find people whom he wants dead or at least scared badly. Brian also has a disability I guess? I mean he definitely has a disability and probably more than one, what I am trying to guess is an extent of that disability.

You see, almost all his life Brian is pretending to be somebody who is Bry, Bry speaks in simple phrases, repeats stuff and clearly does not quite comprehend everything that is going on around him.

Brian clearly comprehends a lot, has complicated personality, also has a mild disability which affected his life a lot – he has dyslexia and because of that nobody in school, which Brian left on his brother’s insistence at sixteen, bothered to work with him and teach him to read.

However, to complicate things further, it appears that Brian is not always pretending to be Bry based on these quotes:

He needed someone to tell his confusion to, and his fears. Someone who might say it was okay to be two people in one body. Or not because probably it wasn't . - location 1269. "There were days he convinced himself that he was just acting a part when he was Bry. Then were there were days like this, when he knew to his core that he was something less than normal"- location 1940

"I'm Brian, but Bry is the stupid me." - p.2156 "Maybe?" Brian looked back at the river. "I used to think I only pretended to be Bry. When it was safer. When it was useful. But now, sometimes I think I don't get to choose who to be. It just happens - location 2156.

"I don't know. Brian, sometimes you are that guy I would love to have met in the club or in the  bar somewhere. And sometimes..." "And sometimes I am the guy who should hold somebody's hand to cross the street" - location 3431.


Moreover, at least once in the book somebody who gets this information from the believable source says that Brian has “dissociative personalities disorder”. If that is true and Brian cannot completely make Bry go away (and maybe book two will reveal additional information which will make it cleared for me), doesn’t Brian sound as somebody who at least has a diminished consent capacity?

I guess I just did not find the building of the romantic relationship with somebody like Brian if he is indeed that ill before he gets way more help than he did to be a very appealing story?

And let’s not forget that as much as Nick resisted (not nearly enough if you ask me), he was an undercover cop messing with one of the suspects. Because he knew very well that he was making bad choices and it seemed that for once the subject was treated seriously enough, I am willing to suspend judgment on this aspect and see where book two takes us, but bad choices should have bad consequences in my opinion. Normally I would want to throw my kindle against the wall when I see this storyline in my romances. We shall see I guess?


Please also note that while the ending is not a cliffhanger , it is *barely* and I mean *barely* HFN.