Playing with Fire by Dirk Greyson ~ Book Review by Ulysses

playingwithfireTitle: Playing with Fire

Author: Dirk Greyson

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Cover Artist: L.C. Chase

Rating: 4.0 of 5 Stars

Publication Date: 11/04/2016

Length: Novel (~ 50K-100K)

Genre: Mystery/Thriller


Jim Crawford was born wealthy, but he turned his back on it to become a police officer. Add that to his being gay, and he’s definitely the black sheep of the family.

Dr. Barty Halloran grew up with lessons instead of friends and toys and as a result, became a gifted psychologist… with only an academic understanding of people and emotions.

When Jim’s pursuit of a serial killer goes nowhere, he turns to Dr. Halloran for help, and Barty thinks he can get inside the shooter’s mind. In many ways, they’re two sides of the same coin, which both scares and intrigues him. Together, Jim and Barty make progress on the case—until the stakes shoot higher when the killer turns his attention toward Barty.

To protect Barty, Jim offers to let Barty stay with him, where he discovers the doctor has a heart to go along with his brilliant mind after all. But as they close in on their suspect, the killer becomes desperate, and he’ll do anything to elude capture—even threaten those closest to Jim.

My View:

Jim Crawford, small-town cop on Philadelphia’s Main Line, is looking for a serial killer. He finds a criminal psychologist, Barty Halloran, working at a local university, and enlists the bashful genius to help him find his shooter. As they get to know each other, Barty finds out that Jim’s first name is really Pierpont, and that he lives in his grandfather’s sprawling mansion. Jim’s family barely tolerates his being gay, and really doesn’t understand why he chose such an embarrassing profession. Jim, on the other hand, finds out that Barty never learned how to make friends or how to play like a normal child. In fact, Barty fears he might identify a bit too strongly with the murderous stranger they’re both trying to find.

This is my first book by Dirk Greyson, and he’s a welcome discovery in the world of gay fiction. Jim and Barty form a good counterpoint to each other, and they’re backed up with secondary characters who serve as foils for each man’s personality. Jim is trying to dodge the fact of his family’s wealth – but clearly loves the rambling house his grandfather left him. He wants to be a regular guy, but won’t deny his own heritage completely. Barty, on the other hand, is a brilliant mind born into an ordinary family. By the miracle of a grandmother who understood him, he has managed to become something approaching a functional adult, but he is emotionally starved and entirely lacking in social self-confidence.

This is one of those books that mixes detective work with romance, but in this case the hunt for the killer takes the front seat. Both Jim and Barty are bent on figuring out the mind of a cold-blooded murderer before he can claim another victim. Each of them respects the other, and feels a mutual attraction that neither one acknowledges at first, for fear of ruining their professional relationship. Jim sees Barty for who he is, and understands both his genius and his fragility. Barty sees Jim as a kind of heroic ideal, and can’t imagine that he is anything other than a freak in the other man’s eyes. The mutual hesitancy of their evolving friendship flows like an increasingly urgent undercurrent to the drama being played out around them.

The romance and the murder mystery remained nicely intertwined, and Greyson is able to keep both sides of his narrative moving along at a good pace. The writing is clean and correct; just enough description to pique our curiosity without falling into either melodrama or sentimentality. Both men’s relationships with their families are explored to further illuminate their personalities,  and ultimately this helps each of them gain a stronger understanding of who the other man really is.

Although no indication is given, this could easily be the start of a series, and I hope Greyson considers this. Jim and Barty are too interesting to leave behind after one book.


Playing with Fire on Goodreads
Dreamspinner Press
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA
All Romance eBooks

I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.

Farewell Giveaway
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.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

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