As I park my sitter on my rolling office throne and finger up to my lettered and clicky, I realize that I don’t quite know how to cowboy up a grade, you feel me? I was hand-grenaded by J R Ward’s latest pagey rectangle, but was continually Katrina’d from the story by the Citarum River of creative turns of phrase. When a simple legal pad is called a “yellow and lined” it’s time to Stop Messing with Texas.
Envy rejoins our trio of feathered and deadly as Jim seduces his demon enemy Devina in an attempt to learn the name of the next soul he has to GPS. There is supposed to be no cheating, but Devina keeps getting the 411 in advance, leaving Jim and his minions to play catch up. The winged guerrillas have to locate and Sacagawea a soul in crisis, hopefully guiding them away from the dark side, saving that soul and coming closer to winning the best of seven contest that will determine the fate of every soul on Earth and in Heaven.
The book opens where book two ended, with Detective Thomas Del Vecchio, Veck, standing in the woods over the body of a mostly murdered serial killer. Veck remembers hiding in the woods outside the no-tell where the serial killer was last seen, hoping the dude would show so that Veck could kill him. What he doesn’t remember is how the serial killer got sliced-n-diced or what happened to Veck to make him lose his memory. Has Veck gone crazy and pulled a Thomas Del Vecchio Sr, Veck’s celebrated serial-killer father? As Veck tries to save the man he intended to murder, the police show up with Internal Affairs Officer Sophia Reilly in tow.
Reilly believes Veck innocent of the events in the woods, and sets out to prove her theory. Until she succeeds, Veck is pulled off the serial killer case and given Reilly as a new partner. When Veck decides to pursue a simple missing person case (that may or may not have anything to do with the case from which he’d been removed), he and Reilly open up a can of worms with far-reaching implications. Does the missing girl have anything to do with Veck’s serial killer case? Why are there similiarities to his father’s MO? Who is the strange FBI agent that keeps appearing at crucial moments, and why do both Reilly and Veck fell an almost constant sense of being watched?
Reilly and Veck have a serious Jones for each other, but Veck is totally whacked out. He feels phantom hands touching him, hears voices in his head, and casts two shadows in bright light. They could easily get past all that, except for office policy about cops dating. Reilly and Veck grow closer during the course of their investigation and forced proximity. Their attraction deepens into love, until events force Reilly to re-evaluate her perception of Veck.
This is just the most bare-bones synopsis, but any more information would spoil this excellent story. As with the two previous books in the series, the plot is crazy-complicated, leaving the reader in awe of how the author’s mind works to tie it all in together. Envy is chock-full of J R Ward signature shocks and “Oh No!” moments, as well as a hot and tender love story. I also enjoyed the character development, especially on the heavenly side of things. It’s a tautly written adventure, and the action never stops. Devina’s evil influence is everywhere, and the angels and humans are all left reeling from events she sets in motion. It’s impossible to tell who the human villain is until the last, and the moment of Veck’s crossroads is truly scary. Straight sex, homoeroticism, murder, treachery, and violence are all very present, engendering an emotional response. You can’t put this book down, and every detail is vital.
Envy ties into The Black Dagger Brotherhood series by the same author. At one point, Veck runs into one of the Brothers in a hallway, and you’ll probably have to go back to Lover Unleashed to figure out which Brother it was. I don’t recommend trying to read this book as a standalone, as the backstory is intricate -and made even more confusing to a newcomer by the crossover.
Two things proved difficult for me. First is the creative language usage. When the uber-masculine hero called a cup of coffee a “cup of wakey-wakey”, I immediately pictured a toddler with a sippy cup. In another instance, the heroine, instead of picking up her bags from Victoria’s Secret, “fisted her lacey and lovelies”. What woman speaks that way? What anybody speaks that way? Those examples and the “yellow and lined” reference from the first paragraph are the most egregious, but the entire book is strewn with them. Second is what I can only assume to be an extreme allergy to question marks. I would guess that ninety percent of the questions asked by the males in the book are followed by a simple period. It’s as if perhaps the lilt at the end of a query would somehow make the character appear less masculine? Maybe? I can’t guess the reasoning behind the lack, but I found it very distracting.
Fortunately, Envy is a strong enough book that it can get past the odd language and punctuation.