Zero at the Bone by Jane Seville

Synopsis: D is being blackmailed into accepting a contract to kill Jack, who has witnessed a murder. Instead of killing him he decides to protect him until the trial and at the same time find out who is after himself. They get on the road together and find more than they both had bargained for.

Review:

I’m totally in love with this book.

It starts with a poem by Emily Dickinson called "The snake". The poem leaves a lot of room for interpretation already. D could be seen as a character very close to the snake in the poem. He is dangerous, but might not be considered so, just like the snake that is mistaken for a whip-lash – but then a whip-lash has some bad connotation as well. With his various identities he might suddenly appear here but disappears just as quickly again only to turn up elsewhere. Jack on the other hand might just be that boy, trusting, naive, untouched by evil and mistaking the snake for something else. Then again D is the one with no feelings whatsoever, he feels "zero at the bone", which is attributed to the boy or man in the poem. And that is right again, because, even though D is the cold-hearted killer who has locked up his emotions, at the same time he’s insecure and doesn’t know how to deal with his emotions once they’re out. Worse, he never even thought he had any left. He is in need of guidance.

Listen to me, I’m even starting to interpret a poem in regards to a book, something I haven’t done in ages, :-). The book is truly inspiring obviously. Jane Seville used the great last line of the poem as the fitting title of the book. In spite of the ongoing plot, the hunt for Jack and D, the witsec program, the trial etc., it is basically the story about a man who learns how to feel again, how to go from feeling zero at the bone to a normal existence. And the story was beautifully told. No miracle cure, no rushed love/sex scenes, just a slowly developing friendship and relationship, which didn’t seem to be anything but transient for a long time.

Only gradually does Jack find out about D’s background, his former life and how he became what he is now. The way D eventually opens up to Jack and realizes how he feels about him was well done indeed. The lengths he goes to and the things he does to protect Jack and make it possible for him to get his true life back are incredible. I liked that at least he doesn’t lie to himself about his feelings, but acknowledges them, even if he is not able to express them for a very long time. The fact that if anything happened to Jack, D would just go back to his old life, floating without life support, just made me so root for him, I really felt for this guy.

I have no idea whether all the details about the witsec program and about the ins and outs of hitman life were realistic (and I don’t even want to start thinking about a hitman reality) but they felt right to me. It all fit. What I do know to be correct is the little speech that D gave Jack about fighting technique. I’m told all the time by my husband that fighting honourably will leave you dead rather earlier than later and that fighting  dirty is the only way to go. Being an "honourable corpse", as D puts it, won’t do you any good.

What made me like the characters even more was the fact that both have qualms about getting back together again, both for their different reasons, both make perfect sense, and still both overcome those ideas because in the end they are not as important as being together. Who has never wished that something anticipated will never come true, because then it will be over too quickly or not work out the way we wanted it to?

During the whole book people are serious with hardly any reason for much humour, except for the scene towards the end when Gloria inquires about Jack’s man and tries to guess, why Jack can’t talk about him, that was so funny! It almost made up for all the tension in the book. I needed that.

So much happened in this book that after I finished it I felt like I read several books in one go. The story is so tense, you never get a break from it. I never knew what might possibly happen next, it was like being on a rollercoaster ride that went on and on. If this was a film it would turn from road movie to cabin romance to Perry Mason episode to mobster movie and eventually redemption with a perfect HEA – yet again with a bit of tension thrown it. The long epilogue still shows us potential for future trouble (internal and external), we won’t have seen the last of Jack and D – I hope.

One thing about the "graphic nature" of the book. Someone has mentioned this on Jane’s blog in a different context. The sex scenes, that all serve a purpose, are not very explicit, rather short and not more graphic than in any other "hot" romance novels. In fact they are much less so. Other than in other books I’ve read the focus is on the plot and not on gratuitous sex.

As I said already in an earlier post there are two follow up short stories available for free on Jane Seville’s website. Jane said in an answer to my previous blog post that she will be adding more short stories to her website and that she’s actually writing a sequel. I’ll be so looking forward to that, those two guys have already become one of my favourite couples.

Available at Dreamspinner Press

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