4-star,  Suspense

The Cardigans (Criminal Intentions: Season One #1) by Cole McCade

Sooo close to getting a 5-star rating!

But The Cardigans sort of stumbled on the finish line and got bumped down to a 4 instead, with me not even knowing if I’d like to continue with the rest of the series/season. I’ll get back to why in a bit.

The format of Criminal Intentions is a bit different than a usual book series. It’s more like a tv-series in that there are more episodes and the main characters – their history, personalities and what makes them tick – are presented to the reader in smaller increments. Meaning there’s more room in each episode to focus on the plot and keep the personal entanglements of the MCs on the down-low. Also, that means each episode is on the shorter side compared to many novels.

The Cardigans is pretty gruesome. The main characters are two detectives with the Baltimore Police Department getting paired up to solve the murder of a young queer student. Neither of the detectives, Malcolm Khalaji and Seong-Jae Yoon, wants a partner and the tension is high between them. But as more queer young men end up dead, with each murder growing more apalling than the next, Khalaji and Yoon set aside their differences to solve the case that means more to both of them, on a personal, level than just another job.

Right. So Khalaji and Yoon are both gay. Obviously. Or somewhere on the I-like-men scale at least. Both are loners. Both are damaged. But no specifics are revealed in this first episode.

I really liked Khalaji’s grumpy persona and the vulnerability that shone through during the grimmer parts of the story. I think I could easily come to adore his character if only McCade would have offered a bit more flesh to his bones.

Yoon was harder to place. The POVs alternated between the two, but Yoon’s chapters were less revealing than Khalaji’s. Yoon was way more closed up. Strict and a stickler for protocol. Younger and less experienced, but the experience he had is hinted at to more than make up for it.

I thought the plot was great and I was sucked into the story immediately. It was fast-paced, it has to be in this format, and it sets the stage for getting to know more about Khalaji and Yoon through their reluctant cooperation. Basically, McCade is being a tease. Which is brilliant. I kept wanting to know more about them and was frustrated when I wouldn’t get it. But of course, I still devoured the read since any lull in the story (revealing more of the guys histories) was inevitably followed by action.

There were mainly two things in this story that bothered the hell out of me.

The first one was the obvious disregard of a crucial clue. They found the clue. Acknowledged that it seemed suspect. And then never spoke of it again. I mean WTF! That grated. Also, later on, it didn’t help that the case was solved without revealing the how of it all. Logistics is pretty central to this murder mystery after all and not detailing how it was even possible to get away with the things done (especially the grand finale) just adds to the improbability.

The second thing that annoyed me was the kiss. It just came out of the blue. No preamble. Just “lets test if we have chemistry to see if it’ll fuck up our professional relationship”. To me, that was actually the final straw. So a 4 instead of a 5.

I mean, naturally I wanted a kiss. At a minimum. But it would have needed to be some credible build up to that moment. As it were it just felt forced. Too bad really.

I want both the suspense and the relationship development to be on point in order to fully enjoy this kind of story. So right now it’s anyone’s guess if I’ll pick up the next episode or not.

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I'm a Swedish book nerd reading mostly steamy English romance novels. And since there is so much good stuff out there, and so much shitty stuff too. I just want to give credit where it's due (and diss the rest).

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