Review: Once Upon a Haunted Moor (Tyack & Frayne Mysteries #1) by Harper Fox (2013)

Rating: ★★★★
Genre: Mystery, Paranormal, Romance
Categories: M/M, Ghosts/Spirits, Psychics
Content Warnings: N/A
Buy it at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Description: Gideon Frayne, a policeman in the little town of Dark in Cornwall, has spent nearly two weeks looking for a missing child with no leads and no suspects. When his higher-ups send in a handsome TV psychic, he’s as annoyed by the possibility of a con man playing with the hearts of the victims as he is attracted to the stranger. But Lee Tyack has true sight, and between his psychic visions and Gideon’s knowledge of the town and its inhabitants, maybe they’ll solve the crime—and solve Gideon’s loneliness, as well.

Impression: A sweet and melancholy romance with an exciting mystery storyline that was hard to put down. I originally grabbed this one because I was in the mood for a ghost story, and while it turned out to not actually be a ghost story, the moor is definitely haunted regardless.

The first third of the book has a fantastic pace, and the interactions between and development of the friendship and romance between Lee and Gideon were dead on. The narrative was sharply written, with every sentence serving either the mystery or the romance (and often both), while still building out the setting and the charming small town feel. The scene of Gideon teaching traffic safety to kindergarteners rang absolutely true, as do things like the interactions with his dumb dog, and really build out a rich sense of place and character. The characters were great—both Gideon and Lee were exceedingly enjoyable to read and had believable motivations and interactions.

It wasn’t flawless—for one thing, I think the romance came to the head a bit too early. I generally very much like stories where the romance builds in the middle rather than serves as the climax, but I wasn’t sure how failing to find the kid on a lead from Lee convinced Gideon that he was psychic or let him lower his guard, so it felt like it happened too early for the characters. In addition, although I liked how the mystery developed and was resolved, the narrative does basically tell you who the perpetrator is early on, and then just have Gideon dismiss it, so it didn’t really feel like there were any twists. The actual climactic scene was great, terrifying and moving at a perfect breakneck pace, but I kept finding myself wondering why, in order to back up the story when he reported it, Gideon wasn’t taking pictures of evidence or recording confessions on the mobile phone that we’d been reminded he had.

Still, overall it was very solid, and a good start to a series I certainly hope to read more of.

Related Reviews: The Lamb will Slaughter the Lion by Danielle Cain | Widdershins by Jordan L. Hawk | The Bone Key by Sarah Monette

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