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.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Selecting the best romance ebooks of 2011

Last week I volunteered to select the best romance ebooks of 2011 for Library Journal. The article that resulted from the endeavor was posted at LJ this morning under the title: Librarian’s Best Books of 2011: Ebook Romance, with my picture and everything. Yes, I’m rather chuffed about the whole thing, as the Brits would say.

How did this come about? I review ebook romances for Library Journal. I am a librarian, and I asked to be a reviewer when they started their ebook romance review program this summer. LJ has, like every book review source, been posting their “best of 2011” lists this month. They’ve also been posting “Librarian’s best” guest posts. Since they have only been reviewing ebooks since August, they didn’t have a full year of ebook romance reviewing to work with. When I volunteered to write one for them, they were happy.

But about the books, and the selecting of them. They had to be ebooks, they had to be romances, and I could only pick five. And they had to be 2011 books. I stretched a couple of those definitions just a tad. There was no requirement that they be books reviewed in LJ. Actually, that was the point. LJ wanted me to go through my archives and find stuff I knew about that they didn’t, because I cover more of the ebook “waterfront” with Ebook Review Central, and I’ve been reviewing ebooks longer.

I chose the books in order by time, earliest to latest, plus the one I snuck in and hoped it would stick, which it did. It’s not generally thought of as a romance, but well, some of us think it is.

1. Goddess with a Blade by Lauren Dane, published by Carina Press. Reviewed on June 20, 2011. Urban Fantasy. Escape Rating A.

Goddess was one of the first books I reviewed for NetGalley. And I remembered it in detail six months later.  Every time my editor at LJ asked me if there would ever be a starred review of an ebook (before Serenity Woods’ White-Hot Christmas finally got one) Goddess with a Blade was always my example. Absolutely terrific kick-ass heroine, and great urban fantasy world-building. I hope there are more.

2. Turn it Up by Inez Kelley, also published by Carina Press. Reviewed on August 10, 2011. Contemporary Romance. Escape Rating A.

I reviewed a similar book for LJ, but Turn it Up was just so much better that I cited Turn it Up in my review as the one people should read instead! This was a marvelous “friends-into-lovers” story. And very, very funny.

3. Queenie’s Brigade by Heather Massey, published by Red Sage Publishing. Reviewed on October 10, 2011. Science Fiction Romance. Escape Rating A.

Queenie’s Brigade is terrific science fiction romance. When I wrote my review, I got sucked into reading it a second time, and I’d just finished it! The last rebel spaceship escapes to the last prison planet to try to turn convicts into soldiers. Sort of like the Dirty Dozen in space. Except nowhere near that easy. If you like science fiction romance, get this book.

4. Divide & Conquer (Cut & Run book 4) by Abigail Roux and Madeleine Urban, published by Dreamspinner Press. M/M Romance, Mystery/Suspense. Featured on Ebook Review Central, Dreamspinner October Books, November 28, 2011. Ratings from 4/5 to 5/5 at 8 reviewers.

I crowdsourced this selection to Ebook Review Central. The reviews weren’t just positive, they were glowing. And not just for this book, but for the whole series. It made me put the first book in the series, Cut & Run, on my TBR list. There are paperbacks available for this series, so I was stretching the ebook-only definition just a bit, but no one minded.

5. Beekeeping for Beginners by Laurie R. King, published by Bantam. Mystery. Discussed in the post The Beekeeper and his Apprentice on July 6, 2011.

This was the one that was the sneak. Technically, this isn’t a romance. But the Sherlock Holmes/Mary Russell concept definitely is. And anyone who can read what he did for her and say he hadn’t already started to love her, even if he didn’t know it himself, doesn’t have a romantic bone in their body.

I loved creating this list for LJ, but because they had to be all ebooks, there were lots of things that I read and loved this year that were ineligible. Why?  Because they were really “p as in print” books. Or they were older books I finally got around to this year (hello, Elantra!) So later this month I’ll do a personal “best of 2011” list.