“He didn’t just want to kill her. He wanted to obliterate her entire existence.”
Bump is back for his third adventure! Of course Ellery, his human, and Reed, FBI agent and the person who saved Ellery from a serial killer when she was fourteen, are also back and technically they’re the main characters. But let’s get our priorities straight here: my favourite basset hound is back and he’s ready to slobber all over Reed.
Speaking of Reed, while he’s been integral to the previous two books in this series, this is the first time where it’s one of his cases we’re focusing on, not one of Ellery’s. And this isn’t just any case: it’s a cold case and it’s personal.
When Reed was four months old his mother was murdered in their apartment. He was adopted into an affluent family consisting of a father (a politician), mother and three older sisters. But there have always been question marks surrounding his birth mother’s unsolved murder and, even though the case has officially been closed, Reed has a new lead to follow.
“I need to find out the truth,” he told Ellery quietly. “No matter what it is.”
Luckily Ellery is currently suspended from her job as a cop so she’s available to travel to Vegas with Reed to investigate and hopefully solve this mystery that’s over four decades old. Unfortunately this means Bump can’t come along for the ride, so he doesn’t have many scenes. However, the focus on Ellery and Reed well and truly make up for the missing Bump antics.
There’s enough time spent on interviewing suspects and people who knew Reed’s mother to carry the Investigation along but what really stood out to me were the characters. I have loved Ellery and Reed since I first met them but there’s a depth to them that I don’t see that often in murder mysteries.
I feel like I’ve been alongside Ellery as she continues to survive her past, figuring out what trusting a man looks like and challenging herself to let down her walls, even if it’s just for moments at a time. She’s never thought that she could have anything approximating ‘normal’ but now she’s wondering what might be possible for her.
This was the thing about Reed, though: the more he accepted her just as she was, the more she wanted to try out a new version.
Reed is someone I’ve wanted to get to know more and I got that opportunity with this book. Although he grew up in a loving, privileged family, he’s always felt different. His skin colour is different to his sisters and he was the only adopted sibling. His origin story was pretty hazy before now.
From the reviews I’ve read it seems like readers are either all for an Ellery/Reed romance (I think I’ll call them Ellereed) or they’re completely against it. I’m not seeing much middle ground. So, where do I stand on Ellereed?
Firmly against, but with an acknowledgement that they don’t turn my stomach like I thought they would. I understand people wanting these two to fall in love and live happily ever after; Ellery in particular is seriously overdue for some HEA.
I just can’t get past the circumstances in which they met and the power imbalance that existed between them at the time. The age gap isn’t a problem for me but I can’t see this ever being an equal relationship. I imagined how I’d feel if I was Ellery and the idea of being in a romantic relationship with the person who saved me from a serial killer, when I was a child and they were an adult, just creeps me out. I do want them to both be happy though and it’s not like they need my permission to fall in love.
Even though the words made their only appearance in the first fifty pages, I couldn’t get ‘Neon Boneyard’ out of my head as I was reading. I kept imagining a cover image where the Las Vegas skyline was composed of various human bones, the outlines glowing neon.
Readers could jump into the series with this book but to truly appreciate the relationship between Ellery and Reed (and to understand Ellery’s past) I’d recommend reading them in order. It’s been over two years since I read the second book in this series but it felt like no time had passed at all when I started this one. It didn’t feel like I was being reintroduced to the characters; it was like I was catching up with old friends. I was hooked immediately and stayed hooked the entire time.
I can’t wait to read the rest of this series.
Content warnings include mention of sexual assault and its impacts.
Once Upon a Blurb
FBI agent Reed Markham is haunted by one painful unsolved mystery: who murdered his mother? Camilla was brutally stabbed to death more than forty years ago while baby Reed lay in his crib mere steps away. The trail went so cold that the Las Vegas Police Department has given up hope of solving the case. But then a shattering family secret changes everything Reed knows about his origins, his murdered mother, and his powerful adoptive father, state senator Angus Markham. Now Reed has to wonder if his mother’s killer is uncomfortably close to home.
Unable to trust his family with the details of his personal investigation, Reed enlists his friend, suspended cop Ellery Hathaway, to join his quest in Vegas. Ellery has experience with both troubled families and diabolical murderers, having narrowly escaped from each of them. She’s eager to skip town, too, because her own father, who abandoned her years ago, is suddenly desperate to get back in contact. He also has a secret that could change her life forever, if Ellery will let him close enough to hear it.
Far from home and relying only on each other, Reed and Ellery discover young Camilla had snared the attention of dangerous men, any of whom might have wanted to shut her up for good. They start tracing his twisted family history, knowing the path leads back to a vicious killer – one who has been hiding in plain sight for forty years and isn’t about to give up now.