Author: John Wiltshire
Publisher: MLR Press
Cover Artist: Deana Jamroz
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Publication Date: 10/23/2015
Length: Novel (~ 50K-100K)
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Crime Fiction, Drama, Fiction, Gay, Gay Fiction, Mystery
The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting. Nikolas has always liked art.
You’d have thought that Ben and Nikolas would have learnt that their romantic holidays inevitably end up as disasters. A short break on the polar ice sees them trapped in a nightmare of murder and deceit. Neither of them, however, foresees the long-term impact that endless winter has on their relationship. They return with a metaphorical darkness that threatens everything they have created together. Desperate and fearing for Nikolas’s life, Ben makes a bargain with a surprising ally. For the first time, Nikolas meets an enemy more powerful than he is. But fortunately, not as sneaky…
This is a love letter. Granted, it’s an intense, painful, death-defying love letter, to survival, family and, yes, even to love, but it’s a love letter. On that premise, let’s proceed shall we? Here’s the evidence for my case, which I’ve already one, if you were wondering about the outcome. Though Ben and Nik are all the proof necessary, let’s have some fun.
Let’s get this outa the way first: Radulf enjoys a role, as usual and always, and it’s an important one, as usual and always. I have to say, though, he nearly takes a backseat to Squeezy. Yes, Squeezy. He and Tim both, actually. Of all of the other characters in this book, and series, they get the most page time and certainly have the most impact this time around. Well, except for one certain little lady, but more on all of that later. Radulf, Squeezy, and Tim make for a formidable team in their work to make this love letter even get written to begin with. I love them for it. I don’t even want to say more than that for fear of giving an ounce of anything away. As I trust Wiltshire as my storyteller, you can trust me on this.
There were too many silences that needed to be filled. Ben heard them in Nikolas’s head – the spaces of cold terror that could not be eased, even by his unfailing love and attention.
Chapter one, folks, chapter one, and I was already wrapped up in Nik & Ben and Wiltshire’s writing. I should have realized, I should have realized, this being Wiltshire, and Ben & Nik, how important and much of a foreshadowing this passage is. Even so, I had taken a deep breath and told myself that, no matter what happens, it’ll all be ok. Maybe my subconscious knew. I mean, it must have known if I was already talking to myself in order to get through this book. On the flipside, I also remembered that, with this storyteller, I needed to trust him because he’s never let me down. I went with that.
The insights into these characters, lawdy, Wiltshire knows them inside and out and back again, and he’s not at all afraid to demonstrate that by way of making then suffer and soar at the same time. Oddly, this is why and how Ben & Nik keep this world of theirs grounded when the craziness commences. Mostly. This is vital in this particular story because Ben and Nik are pretty much center stage, without most of the other characters – this family they’ve created – around them for most of it. That’s probably the one thing that I missed in this book, spending time with Emilia, Babushka, Molly Rose, and even Miles, and the rest. Yes, they are here in bits and pieces, but that’s about it. This is the Ben & Nick Show, one that has been building for a long time now. It took over the airwaves.
Wiltshire knows how to give us a three dimensional picture and the ways it surrounds and effects and connects to his characters. This is nothing new. It’s also not to be taken for granted. His ability to make the place and the person feel as one is what makes it so easy for me to feel as if I’m right inside that picture, experiencing everything. Isn’t that what we crave from our stories? I know it is for me.
His writing style also has a unique rhythm that is natural and fits this particular world and characters. The dialogue bounces along, making the humor and the surprise and the pain and the love traipse and amble and run at full speed, setting the mood, tone and atmosphere. Yup, it’s that good.
To put that another way, Wiltshire makes me chuckle, clutch my heart, and carry the worry for Ben and Nik, all on a single page. It’s the best kind of whiplash. It’s real and it works.
He was Nikolas’s freedom. Possible the first and only time Nikolas had found someone to be entirely himself with, and he’d found it deep inside Ben’s body. Freedom and life lived without restraint. It didn’t get any better than this.
Ben lost sight of this. I don’t even know what to say beyond that without giving something away. The cause of his major lax in memory is worthy, it’s everything. Still, he lost sight of it and, well, there are always consequences for these two any time either one of them loses sight of the other. Haven’t they learned that this just shouldn’t be done?
I guess I can understand it, though. Like Ben and Nik, Wiltshire makes me feel 100% confident in what’s going on while simultaneously making me wonder if I have even the first clue. This is when I must hold onto my trust in my storyteller. I was gripping tightly. A lot. Most of the time. Jussayin’.
However many times he told Ben that they made their own paths in life, the sneaking suspicion often hit Nikolas that there was, in fact, a very sure and certain hand at the helm of this. Someone had given him Ben, after all.
It can’t be said any simpler or more clearly than that. This is also just about as revelatory as you’ll ever experience Nik. Like I said, these two help to keep me grounded in the story, especially when things get tense, uncertain, and hit the fan in every sense, which is often. I mean, this is Nik & Ben.
Riveted. Unable to pull myself away. I was at the halfway point and already exhausted and awash in a post-adrenalized haze, and still had half the book to experience. Yet to come: desperation, hard work, suffering, newly introduced elements, brief respites thanks to those who now qualify as old friends, and so much more.
I’m pretty sure this is the first time in this series I was close to tears at the end.
This is a love letter to Benjamin Rider-Mikkelsen and Nikolas Mikkelsen. I think they’ve already taken a gander at it, furrowed their brows, smirked, not so secretly agreed, pretended they’ve done so secretly, and wish and hope and vow to try to live out their lives as destined. Given the title of book 8, His Fateful Heap of Days, and where it’s set – per some recent interviews with the author – I too have hopes. I know I’ll be there ready to experience more of Ben and Nik and their family and this life they continue to build.
This review is based on a copy purchased by the reviewer independent of any review copies offered.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
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