Book Reviews

The Death of Elias Ives (Listening to the Dead 2) by George Seaton

Genre Gay / Contemporary / Romance / Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Reviewed by ParisDude on 06-April-2020

Book Blurb

Two retired murder cops, Jack Dolan and Mike Day share their lives with their Malamute, Marsh, their cat, Gertrude, and two quarter horses, Shy and Pop. Their cabin sits in a secluded mountain valley north of Vail, Colorado. Just up the road, the Pinecone Lodge offers flatlanders the experience to taste a bit of the Old West, including campfire lore from Charley Standing Bear, a Yampa Ute whose ancestors roamed the Colorado Rockies for a thousand years. When Charley learns that Jack Dolan used to solve murders in Denver by listening to the dead, he asks Jack if he would try to speak to the spirits of the Ute dead. Jack agrees to try, but not before he and Mike head to Fairplay, sixty miles south, where Sheriff Guy Packard has a murder of his own to solve.

Book Review

This second book in a series that I hope will feature many more installments brought me back to Colorado. Jack Dolan and Mike Day, the two retired homicide cops previously from Denver, are at it again. Murder was their life, and murder still is. They have settled down in their cozy cabin up in the Rockies together with their dog, cat, and (as of now) two horses, and try to live out at last their mature if somewhat tentative relationship. But when Sheriff Packard down from Fairplay calls to know if they can help out with a strange murder, they don’t hesitate for a moment, leave their menagerie to the care of their neighbor Suzie, and drive down to Park County.


The dead man who has been found in an abandoned mine situated within Sheriff Packard’s county is called Tony Canino. Unstable, wired, involved in countless petty misdemeanors, and finally killed by a bullet to his head. Almost as soon as Jack and Mike arrive in Fairplay, a second killing occurs. This time, the victim is Harold Nester, little-liked and little-mourned third husband of Bernice Merriweather, who is the owner of the Flying M Ranch at the western edge of South Park Valley. At first, it looks as if Nester has had a car accident, but a bullet has blown up his windshield, and by the looks of the body, poisoning by arsenic and/or strychnine is involved. The first leads point to Dody Downey, a scrawny widow who, as popular opinion has it, was Nester’s not-so-secret lover. A bunch of letters written by Bernice’s only son are found in the car, which hint to another crime committed way back in late Nester’s wife’s past. Yet, Nester’s own past doesn’t look so faultless either. He seems to have been part of a secret extreme right-wing army with headquarters close to Jack and Mike’s cabin. Maybe, Nester’s deeds are even related to the disappearance of a couple of Utes who have lived up in the forest…


To be honest, the first pages of this novel almost put me off—too much telling in awkwardly shifting tenses, too many stories and strands. But I plunged on, remembering that I had already experienced the same difficulties with the first book of this series. Seaton wants to be conquered, the reading pleasure wants to be earned. And sure enough, I was hooked again after a couple of pages, when the plot proper started to unravel. From then on, no chance that I’d lift my eyes. Seaton’s voice is strong and compelling, his seemingly rought-neck characters so alive and three-dimensional that I almost had the impression I was watching a movie instead of reading words on a screen. Once again, there was no place left for doubts about who did what and when and why. Changing points of view allowed me to know exactly what was going on, unlike Jack and Mike, who needed to reach the last page in order to find out in detail what was what.


But as strange as this may seem, this narrating technique created wonderful suspense and tension because I knew what would happen next whereas the main characters together with the other policemen had to play it by intuition, thus placing themselves and other people in much danger. There was a nightly showdown, for example, that used the age-old strategy of partly following the events through the eyes of the participants, partly through mere “hearsay”—a third party nervously relaying what little intelligence they could gather from afar (this technique is often used in theatre plays, where it has already proven its immense efficiency and impact).


I was reminded again that I would really love to visit the Colorado mountainside, which the author must dearly cherish; otherwise, he wouldn’t be able to describe it with so much accuracy (I guess) and love. The settings change, from Jack’s cabin to small towns to forests, during daytime, at night, and I always had the feeling I was there with the characters involved. Even some scenes such as male-to-male conversations in a bar, which at first sight bore no relation to the plot whatsoever (they turned out to be important, of course), added to the overall ambiance and helped me understand the people and country where the story was situated. Like the first book of this series, “The Death of Elias Ives” was no light reading, had a strongly bleak side to it, but was well-paced and intense, and intensely enjoyable.





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Additional Information

Format ebook and print
Length Novel, 262 pages
Heat Level
Publication Date 20-February-2020
Price $2.99 ebook, $10.00 paperback
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