We have Ethan Stone stopping by today with his newest release Hacked Up
What Inspired me to write Hacked Up?
My inspiration for stories come from all over the place—things people say or do, news stories, television or movies and more. For this book it was a major news event.
It happened back in July of 2015. The website Ashley Madison was hacked by Internet hackers who threatened to expose all the user data information if the site wasn’t shut down. Ashley Madison refused and the hackers followed through on their threat. In August of that year all the information was leaked. See more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashley_Madison_data_breach
For those of you not familiar with Ashley Madison it’s a site dedicated to enabling extramarital affairs. Their tagline at one point was Life is Short. Have an Affair.
Thanks to the hackers people can search email addresses and find out if their loved on was a member of the site and, most likely, having an affair. Tons of secrets were revealed and one of the members of the site was Josh Duggar, a reality tv star (I hate that term when it comes to reality TV). It was big news that Duggar was having affairs since his very large family was also very religious.
I researched the news on the hack and came up with the idea of what would happen if someone started killing members of the site. The killer could be anyone; a scorned wife or husband, people affected by the affairs and more. My story came together even better when I learned there was an Ashley Madison Down Low for people of the same sex to arrange affairs.
I can’t say too much without ruining the story but the plot is tied up in the reveal of Ashley Madison users. I hope you’ll take a chance and read my story and see how I melded fact and fiction into a twisty mystery.
Seattle is being plagued by a string of gruesome murders. For Detective Peter Tao, it’s a career-making case, but he’s struggling to find a lead. How is the killer choosing his victims? What is he trying to prove?
With a long list of suspects and nothing to connect them, Peter is more determined than ever to apprehend the murderer. Then Peter gets the one vital piece of evidence that ties everything together. Now he’ll have to look beyond the obvious to identify the killer before anyone else is murdered.
Solve the mystery in this fast-moving crime thriller by Ethan Stone.
Review by Elaine White
Book – Hacked Up
Author – Ethan Stone
Star rating – ★★★★★
No. of Pages – 264
Cover – Very Nice!
POV – 1st person, one character POV
Would I read it again – Yes.
Genre – LGBT, Crime, Mystery/Thriller
*This post may contain spoilers. It’s very difficult to discuss the story otherwise*
When I read the warning at the beginning of the book: this book contains material that is only suitable for mature readers: I was suddenly prepared for anything. And that’s what I got.
We get the POV of Peter, a detective whose partner just chose an interesting case for them, incidentally stolen from the cop that was on duty at the time. His partner Jamey needs the distraction of a juicy case and boy do they have one. Men turning up dead, with a spinal cord injury that killed them quickly only for their…private parts…to be cut off. Juicy case indeed!
Despite this being 1st person (my least favourite POV) it actually read very well. I didn’t end up with mass confusion for the first 1-2 chapters, not know if I was a man/woman, how old, what my name or circumstances were etc, as so often happens in 1st person. But I wasn’t bombarded with information either. Everything had a nice balanced feel to it; we found out Peter’s name through dialogue with colleagues on the first page, in a similar way that we find out about his sexuality, relationship status and most of his personal details. They’re all given through a gradual leak of natural conversation between Peter and his colleagues, especially his partner Jamey. In the same way, we learn about Jamey.
Peter is an interesting character. He’s prejudiced against cheating men right from the beginning, after being the ‘other man’ unwittingly in the past. Because of that, he’s very closed off emotionally, doesn’t do one night stands, flings or married men. He has a friends-with-benefits arrangement with a good friend he can trust, but other than that he’s been left with some issues after that relationship.
So when he discovers that <spoiler> Jamey has been cheating on his wife through the infamous Ashley Madison website <spoiler> he understandably goes a little nuts about it. But, at the same time, he makes an attempt to listen to Jamey. Before he can figure out the real reason for his actions <spoiler> Jamey becomes another victim in their case <spoiler> and his whole world is rocked.
This, for me, was a really genius move. Not only did it open Peter up to having no one left he could truly trust, but it also allowed for even more, closer to home, suspects in the case.
Enter hunkaroony silver-fox Bryce and things only seem to be picking up for him. Peter has an impossible case with no clues, too many suspects and a dozen people making great suspects until their alibi clears them. So the hunk hovering around is a great distraction at a time just when he needs it the least. But, Peter is professional and contained; he doesn’t want to start anything, despite how he feels, because Bryce is still a marriage man, even if that marriage proves to be on the rocks thanks to the big reveal by Anonymous that Bryce frequented the ‘down low’ sections of Ashley Madison.
From here on out, everything that Peter thought he knew about himself changes and he begins to see things in a new light. And, the best part about this, is that we only really start to see Peter’s home life at the 13% mark, because he’s a workaholic who enjoys focusing on his current case and not getting distracted. That allows for a good long run at crime solving before his personal life crashes through the cracks and makes an appearance.
I loved all of the characters and how they were handled. Everyone had their flaws. No one was an angel or perfect, but apart from the true criminals, no one was beyond redemption either. Peter was a lone wolf, snarky and kept things bottled up, while Jamey was the one who helped him loosen up. Molly was a great female character: strong, opinionated, not perfect but not a stereotypical fag-hag or dumb cop, either, as so many women end up in LGBT crime stories. I loved Aza’s exuberance, Bryce’s belief in himself and his strength, Shep’s quirkiness and innocent little Matt.
Another thing that was great but a surprise for books in this genre – it was low on sex. There was plenty of talk about it, lots of cheaters being caught out and some snogging, but no explicit sex on page. In fact, I really loved that Peter had specific rules about what he would and wouldn’t allow in a relationship and he stuck to them without question. I respect Peter more for standing by his beliefs than I would have been able to forgive him for giving in.
When it comes to the crime aspect, I love the continual references that Peter makes to how long it takes to rely on other people. That lab results, phone records and autopsies don’t just fly in the window five minutes later. They have to wait weeks or months for answers, so relying on their investigative skills first and foremost is the only way to get answers. I love that. I’ve studied forensics, police procedure and such at university as well as watching every true and fictitious crime show there is to watch. It is so good to finally see that someone got it right.
I also really liked the fact that they believed they’d solved the case around the 50% mark, only for gut instinct, hunches and a feeling of things adding up a little too neatly to grow doubts. But, like I said above, Ethan Stone took the actual, realistic truth of the matter and put it front and center. Cops can’t just re-open a closed case for a hunch. Nor can they keep a case open that appears to have been solved unless they have proof to pose a logical and justifiable extension on the investigation. In fact, this reason is why there are so many cold cases still in existence, because a hunch isn’t evidence and no matter how strongly a cop feels that ‘they did it, with no doubt‘, that won’t stand up in court or with their superiors.
So, when Peter has his doubts, he re-investigates quietly, on the down low, so that if he’s wrong there’s no harm done. And, again, he doesn’t believe there’s anything worth investigating bar his own instincts until he brainstorms with others who worked the case and they agree that some evidence didn’t match the final outcome or had yet to be explained. So they go back to follow up and end up down the rabbit hole once again.
Real cops suffer these things all the time – being told that a case is closed and knowing it’s not, but being unable to prove it. This is only another instance where Stone has proven to know the reality of detective work and police procedural and not fallen into the trap of doing what read better fictionally or what allowed the MC to be the indisputable hero.
Overall, this is a no-nonsense criminal detective story, heavy on the case, light on the personal time and with a snarky cop who just wants to get the job done. The case is well investigated, has all the right components and provides the appropriate clues at the appropriate times without feeling contrived. The revelations along the way make sense, answer questions and offer a temporary resolution that is believable at the time and only called into question as we get more information at the same time Peter does.
As a standalone novel, it’s fantastic. But I would be lying if I didn’t say I wanted to see more. And maybe a sneaky little plot for Ryan and Matt?
“He didn’t seem the killer type, but neither had Ted Bundy. Appearances were most definitely deceiving most of the time.”
About the Author
Romance on the Edge
Ethan Stone doesn’t write your typical boy meets boy stories. With a combination of love and suspense he makes his characters work hard for their HEAs. If they can survive what he puts them through, then they can survive anything. He enjoys Romance with an Edge.
Ethan has been reading mysteries and thrillers since he was young. He’s had a thing for guys in uniform for just as long. That may have influenced the stories he writes.
He’s a native Oregonian with two kids. One of whom has made him a grandfather three times over; even though he is way too young.
Readers can find Ethan online
His books: http://www.ethanjstone.com/my-books