Book Reviews

A Friend in the Fire (An Auden & O'Callaghan Mystery 2) by Gregory Ashe and C.S. Poe at Emporium Press

Genre Gay / Contemporary / Military/Former Military / Romance / Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Reviewed by Bob-O-Link on 02-June-2021

Book Blurb

After solving the mystery behind the death of his former friend in July, ex-Army Sam Auden has been aimlessly wandering the country. Everything had gone sideways in New York City, so when his phone rings three months later, the caller is the last person Sam expected to be asking for help.

Confidential informant Rufus O’Callaghan has been struggling. His NYPD contact was murdered over the summer, and the man Rufus is head over heels for was driven away by his own undiagnosed trauma. But when he receives an anonymous letter that promises information on his mother, life goes from dark to dangerous in the blink of an eye.

Sam and Rufus must dig into Rufus’s rough and turbulent past in order to solve a series of contemporary murders connected to his mother. And if the two can’t expose who the killer is in time, they will most certainly become his next targets.


Book Review

Generally, I don’t peek at the end of a novel first, sneaking a preview of the end. Perhaps ‘A Friend in the Fire’ deserved to be an exception, as it improved (moderately) as the story progressed. Keeping in mind that the proprietor of Rainbow Book Reviews stands by the modified old truism, “Don’t speak ill of the read!”, I plan to fairly balance out the pluses and minuses in this review.


‘A Friend in the Fire’ follows the first book of the series, ‘A Friend in the Dark’. Even after rereading my very recent review of the earlier book, I had trouble following in all the current back references. So while book two is freestanding, perhaps it is so only on one leg! The best a newbie reader can do is to read both books (back-to-back, or, as an old calypso song once graphically instructed, belly to belly).


The highlight of ‘A Friend in the Fire’ is its delicious serving up of noir style. The heroes from book one, Sam and Rufus, are reunited. Rufus is presented as a total disaster – physically, emotionally, financially: basically he is waiting for nothing. He exists on the margins of life, earning small monies as a police confidential informant. But now he is in trouble, having received new information about the seventeen year old murder of his prostitute mother. He calls on Sam, his very peripatetic friend, to come in from wandering and give him a hand. Sam is reminiscent of Lee Child’s thriller-hero, Jack Reacher, living out of his pocket and without a fixed geographic base.


This is the opportunity to renew their strong attraction and is also the basis of a grand noir venture. On the novel’s plus side is the fine use of atmospheric language, though the coloration sometimes becomes distracting to the plot’s forward movement. Examples of that colorization follow. “Tungsten-orange light from streetlamps filtered through the boughs, casting shadows across his face, discoloring his jean jacket.” And further along: “A shadow that was darkness, resulting from the absence of any light.”] So typical of the genre, the authors present the sense of emptiness, often almost reaching tedium. Wow! And yet their noir style, often tongue in check, caroms from informative to humorous to snide, generating a sense of the surreal. There is also much fun. Example 1, when discussing hitching cross country: “The journey occurred in stages, each stage with its own particular brand of asshole.” Example 2, a reference to New York City pedestrian risks: “Death by Yellow Cab.”


The authors’ ledger must be debited for employing too many characters from too many earlier time periods. A cheat sheet would have helped. They also, occasionally, cross the line into being too stylish, purely for the noir effect.


I recommend the book as an easy read for the mildly committed reader: time will pass quickly, and so too, perhaps any vivid memory of this work.


Reviewer's end notes:

1. The authors, Poe and Ashe, are presently gestating ‘A Friend in the Glass: book 3.’ The happy event is expected soon.


2. Huzzah for these authors, choosing to ask, in the text “Do you want the build-up or just the denouement?” And I thought I was the only one who learned that word in high school lit!




DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been provided by the author for the purpose of a review.


Additional Information

Format ebook and print
Length Novel, 270 pages
Heat Level
Publication Date 29-April-2021
Price $4.99 ebook, $14.99 paperback
Buy Link