The Merchant of Death by Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock #AudioReview

The Merchant of Death by Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock #AudioReviewThe Merchant of Death by J.A. Rock, Lisa Henry

Narrator: Nick J. Russo
Series: #2 Playing the Fool
Genres: M/M Romance, Romantic Suspense
Published by Riptide on March 15, 2016
Length: 5 hours 29 minutes
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
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four-stars      three-half-flames

This was another re-read for me, but with an added element of being on audio.  I say it many times, but it bears repeating.  I can’t believe the difference getting a story in audio vs. reading it for myself can make.  There’s a different nuance.  In some cases it’s just different and maybe disappointing, but in other cases- like this one- it’s better.  The narrator, Nick Russo, does a good job particularly with the two main characters.  I was riveted by the crucial points in this story when Henry was really struggling with who he is and what he really wants.  There are some real laugh out loud moments along with some soft chuckle ones, too, and the narrator nailed them.  So yes, the listening experience was a wonderful way to experience this story/series.

Following right behind the first book, this one continues the story of Henry and Mac. It also continues the strong plot, engaging characters and witty dialogue. There was humor, tension, bitter-sweet romance and the intriguing suspense that ends this one abruptly setting things up for book three.

At the start, Mac is recovering from his gunshot wound and in poor spirits thinking Henry ran from him again leaving him without his star witness in the murder case and as the butt of jokes at the bureau for losing his witness yet again. However, he soon has more serious matters to worry about when he learns that he’s being investigated by the FBI’s internal affairs people and it looks very much like he’s being set up for something big. Then he gets the call from Henry to come help investigate the nursing home where Viola has been living because something bad is going on. Here they go again, Henry has gotten them into trouble involving sneaking around, costumes, acting and a volatile situation that can only end badly.

Henry gets Vi’s call that she left the nursing home and he rushes to her. She insists that something is wrong and that her friend was killed. Henry gets Vi to safety amongst his con artist friends and goes in disguise as his twin sister to investigate. He gets in deep fast and calls Mac for help. He half expects Mac to refuse and be like all the others especially since Henry keeps cutting out on Mac, but Mac comes even if he doubts things are fishy and thinks Henry is playing a game. Mac is so good and he is caring and that scares Henry because he doesn’t want to want Mac or learn to get close to him.

Between Henry’s shenanigans, the internal investigation, a new murder case and all of it tying back to Henry, Mac and Henry are once again in it up to their necks and Henry decides that only a little Shakespeare will do.

Many times a second book in a series can slump or act as merely a set up for the next book, but this one exceeded all that. This was a strong plot. The mystery that continues even though for most of the book the reader is aware there is a tie in that Mac and Henry do not until near the end. I loved the twists and the tension build up.

The romance is also a continuation from before with the peculiar relationship between these two men. Trust is a tough commodity though the attraction is the easy part. They see their relationship as a fish and fowl sort of thing not knowing how they can occupy the same worlds since one is a FBI agent and the other a criminal. Henry continues to be enigmatic even to himself as he experiments with gender, dual personality, and most of all trying to figure out who he really is. Mac both wants Henry and doesn’t want all the criminal baggage that comes with him. Henry has lied to him so often and run from him that he isn’t sure what is real though he believes some.

I loved the insertion of Henry’s twin Viola into the story and even getting her perspective. She gives an outside glimpse into understanding Henry and his sense of guilt toward her that she doesn’t believe he owes her. The authors did a good job of portraying a person with traumatic brain injury and how they think and respond to their world.

The ending was abrupt and left things hanging, but not so drastically that I wanted to rip out hair. It mostly left me impatient for book three to see where things go next for Mac and Cheese as Henry has dubbed their crime-fighting duo.

I would recommend this series for those who enjoy M/M Romantic Suspense with strong, difficult characters, a tough romantic situation and a twisty suspense.

My thanks to Riptide for the opportunity to listen to the story in exchange for an honest review.

Challenges Met:

Romance Roundabout #126 RS
Bad Boys #15
Audio #15

About Lisa Henry

Lisa Henry lives in tropical North Queensland, Australia. She doesn’t know why, because she hates the heat, but suspects she’s too lazy to move. She spends half her time slaving away as a government minion, and the other half plotting her escape.

She attended university at sixteen, not because she was a child prodigy or anything, but because of a mix-up between international school systems early in life. She studied History and English, neither of them very thoroughly.

She shares her house with too many cats, a dog, a green tree frog that swims in the toilet, and as many possums as can break in every night. This is not how she imagined life as a grown-up.

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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.

Latest posts by Sophia Rose (see all)

  • Creepy cover

    • You should read about the creepy mental health hospital nurse who wields it. o_O

  • You’re right, there’s often a difference with listening on audio and reading the book. I’m so glad the audio worked for you as a re-read. I like the sounds of this one with the twisty suspense!

    • It was fun, Grace. I love the way it was narrated. Yes, it had some twists, but it’s humorous, too.

  • Not a cover that would make me look at it twice. I am really getting into audio books as well. So is the first one titled Playing the Fool? Just curious. I like that you liked it so much better than when you read it. Also like the Mac and Cheese nicknames!

    • Each cover has a crucial object element from the story so it’s interesting what is chosen. The minimalist look is on another series of covers from this publisher so it must be a key thing with a certain cover artist.
      As to the series title, Playing the Fool is how it is tied to Shakespeare. Henry, one of the protagonists, is disturbed and quotes and disguises himself as Shakespeare characters to cope when issues get bad. So each individual title is a play on a Shakespeare play title.
      Yes, love the Mac & Cheese jokes and name.

  • I miss revisiting books that I’ve read and then try on audio. I go straight to audio so much now. I agree with you so much. It can be great, especially if you have a good narrator. This looks like a series I would enjoy. Something around the Cut & Run series, though I don’t know that anyone can compare to Ty & Zane. I added book one to my TBR list.

    Melanie @ Hot Listens & Rabid Reads

    • It took a while for me to find narrators that I appreciate, but I really like Nick Russo. I laugh and enjoy his storytelling.
      These are fun and light with some depth, but they are very different from Cut & Run. Ty & Zane feel like special forces cops that get the grittier more dangerous cases while Mac feels like local cop turned Fed handling the local mob if that makes sense.