I wanted to like this near-future police procedural cum gay interracial romance. The author shows some competence, if not obvious signs of greatness. But there were so many problems with the plotting, characterization, and structure in this novel, I only finished it to see if my initial unease was warranted. Unfortunately, it was. The (okay) plot involving a serial-killer criminal investigation concludes with fully a fifth of the story remaining; from there, anticlimactically, the romance meanders with much hand-wringing to a predictable conclusion.
The main characters are pretty well drawn, but they suffer from back and forth between their individual points of view and the author's omnicient point of view where she chooses to simply inform us of an emotional state that could have been indicated less lazily with an action or facial cue. It's subtly done but not the strongest choice. Even worse, the minor characters are too often just sketchy ciphers used to move the action forward. They're written way too patly, without the deft strokes that better authors use to indicate character traits.
Moving on, the tone comes to mind. Was this supposed to be a "young adult" novel such as the Twilight series? Because the amount of melodrama generated over, well, really trite conflicts kind of hit me in the face right from the get-go. The first gathering of freshmen detectives in the agency reminds me of nothing so much as the first day of junior high--all gossipy chit-chat and contrived personality intrigue. I almost expected to hear one of the girls say, "Well I don't care, I think he's cute." Oh wait--one might have actually said something like that.
One section early on, in particular, did not inspire confidence that I was in good hands: all the melodrama around Conner revealing to Devlin that he must sleep with a nightlight because he's afraid of the dark. REALLY!? In an adult novel I would expect such an idiosyncrasy to be introduced in a dryly humorous, throwaway manner, such as Conner surreptitiously taking a nightlight out of his luggage and plugging it in while Devlin is showering. Later, after some story movement, Devlin might notice it and make a catty remark about it, realizing there's an issue afoot when Conner's face flushes in tell-tale embarrassment. Even then, I would expect Conner to cover with a convenient, perhaps not entirely successful, lie about wanting to avoid stubbing his toe during nighttime bathroom runs. Authors do not rush strong, admirable characters towards petty melodrama and pages of angsting; such characters avoid it, trying to save face. No melodrama whatsoever was called for early on, and all the space used to dramatize this trait made it seem arch and contrived. If Conner's fear of the dark comes into play later in a more significant, critical way (and it does), THAT is the time for Devlin (and the reader) to appreciate the depth of his problem. It makes sense then, it's ADULT then.
Finally, and most aggravatingly, there's a steaming load of leftist political propaganda that is troweled onto the story. Geesh. Few of us are so sure that our political views are enduringly correct that we would shoehorn them into our fiction. But in this story: oil is evil, "excessive" corporate farm practices are abhorred, solar power is universal (which is likely, but not to the exclusion of plentiful natural gas and other petroleum products), farming collectives are common (not likely; as now, there'll be a lot of hip talk about "fresh and local" produce among the monied liberal elite, but corporate farms will still be feeding the masses), almost every character eats "delicious" vegetarian dishes, coffee costs $200 a cup (with both Puerto Rico and Hawaii producing beans?) and everyone drinks tea, most drive shared electric vehicles (though, just how the recharging power is generated is not stated), and the matriarch of the farming commune proudly observes how little they need to survive (which brings to mind the quip that capitalism inequitably divides the riches it creates while socialism equitably divides the poverty it produces).
Also, will gays worry about being "outed" forty years from now and will the term even be used? Will black guys be routinely stopped for being in pricey neighborhoods? It just goes on and on and on and it's preachy and exhausting. She may as well have stopped the story and made this speech: