Review: Cut & Run by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux

Cut & Run by Madeleine Urban and Abigail RouxFormat read: print book borrowed from the Library
Formats available: ebook, paperback, audiobook
Genre: M/M romance, mystery/thriller
Series: Cut & Run
Length: 376 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Date Released: September 1, 2008
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

A series of murders in New York City has stymied the police and FBI alike, and they suspect the culprit is a single killer sending an indecipherable message. But when the two federal agents assigned to the investigation are taken out, the FBI takes a more personal interest in the case.

Special Agent Ty Grady is pulled out of undercover work after his case blows up in his face. He’s cocky, abrasive, and indisputably the best at what he does. But when he’s paired with Special Agent Zane Garrett, it’s hate at first sight. Garrett is the perfect image of an agent: serious, sober, and focused, which makes their partnership a classic cliché: total opposites, good cop-bad cop, the odd couple. They both know immediately that their partnership will pose more of an obstacle than the lack of evidence left by the murderer.

Practically before their special assignment starts, the murderer strikes again – this time at them. Now on the run, trying to track down a man who has focused on killing his pursuers, Grady and Garrett will have to figure out how to work together before they become two more notches in the murderer’s knife.

My Review:

First we have the typical buddy-cop scenario, one agent is completely buttoned-down and by-the-numbers; and the other one blows off all the rules but closes so damn many cases that the constant insubordination is just barely tolerated.

We’ve seen this play before. Of course they can barely stand each other. Of course the rule-breaker pushes the buttoned-down agent’s buttons until they explode.

Of course they’ve been assigned to work together because their approaches to a case complement the heck out of each other. Analytical mind meets gut instinct, or so it seems.

Then they switch personas in the middle of the case, and nothing is as it seemed. Except that they still need each other to solve the case. And they just plain still need each other.

I left gender out of the above description deliberately. Without adding a romance, Cut & Run might have worked as merely a buddy-cop story. There is a serial killer on the loose, and the FBI is dragged in to solve the case. Once they’re in, the finger starts pointing to a crooked agent (or a crazy agent) in their own house.

As mystery/thriller, Cut & Run would still have worked. There was plenty of tension to go around. A standard romantic suspense with a male/female pair of agents might have been possible. For an example where it does work and the female is treated as an equal, just look at Kensi and Deeks in NCIS: LA. But I’d submit (no pun intended) that Marty Deeks is definitely the beta fish in that school of sharks.

Instead of doing anything that would have been remotely standard, Urban and Roux took their mystery/suspense/thriller story and threw their two male FBI agents into a highly dysfunctional romantic relationship. I say highly dysfunctional because both Ty Grady and Zane Garrett are themselves dysfunctional human beings throughout the story. They are both fantastic agents, but as humans, they need a lot of work.

And as FBI agents at the top of a very competitive food chain, they are both used to being top dogs. Once they enter into a relationship with each other, no matter how on-again/off-again, they constantly jockey for the position of top.

While someone else is showing off their particular prowess as a serial killer for their own express amusement.

Escape Rating B+: I found Cut & Run to be a compelling mystery/thriller with two flawed men as the romantic leads. I will admit that I did figure out “whodunnit” long before Grady and Garrett did, but that wasn’t the point for me, the point was in watching them figure out not just whether they could work together, but sometimes simply whether they could manage to work at all, either personally or professionally.

I enjoy mystery/suspense/romantic suspense a lot. But even with a dominant couple in the picture, I find it more fun when there is a solid support network to follow. I hope that these two develop some reliable backup, because they surely do need it.

They are not merely stronger together, they are pretty damn co-dependent. Watching them negotiate a relationship is going to fun, at least from the reader’s perspective. Now that I’ve started, I understand why so many people recommend this series.

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