Some people are just not meant to go on vacation. Ty and Zane are those people.Sticks & Stones
is the second book in Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux’s fantastic Cut & Run series about FBI Special Agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett. Following a few spectacularly stressful cases and failed psych evaluations, FBI Director Richard Burns forces Ty and Zane to take some much-needed vacation time. Taking a huge emotional leap, Ty invites Zane to go to West Virginia to meet his family and spend some time hiking in the mountains. Unfortunately, what starts out as a little fresh air and exercise turns into a living nightmare when Ty, Zane, Deacon, and Earl discover that there’s more than one kind of predator lurking in those mountains…
This book was fabulous (and anyone who says otherwise is nuttier than Grandpa Grady)!
That said, it was
a bit of a departure from the format of Cut & Run
. In the first book in the series, Urban and Roux introduced their main characters, pushed them into the deep end with a psychotic serial killer, and then sort of let their romantic relationship percolate in a pressure cooker until it went BOOM. It was delicious! But because the mystery was the catalyst that brought Ty and Zane together personally and professionally, the authors had to give it some teeth and make sure that that aspect of the novel could stand on its own. And it could! The mystery unraveled in a really satisfying way that had me on the edge of my seat until the very end.
In comparison, Sticks & Stones
had bad guys and killers for our studly FBI agents to chase, but they were almost incidental to the bigger story. The authors expended as little energy as possible explaining who theses lowlifes were and why they were on the mountain. Case in point: the three bad guys weren’t given real names at any point in the book – they just had to exist being called things like “Redjacket” and “Swizzlestick.” It was weak. I don’t think there’s any denying that. But I’d argue that the authors didn’t really need
the mystery and mayhem angle as much in Sticks & Stones
as they did in Cut & Run
. Ty and Zane were already in close proximity to one another and all Urban and Roux needed was something that would heighten the tension just enough to push Ty and Zane’s relationship forward. Mission accomplished.
As a result, I found Sticks & Stones
to be an almost completely character-driven piece (and I mean that in the best possible way!). Urban and Roux have a wonderful capacity to use their words to get at the heart of what makes people the way they are. They add layers of complication, and frustration, and genuine caring in equal measure, and then give their characters time and space to develop. It’s so much damn FUN watching these two incredibly macho characters circle around each other and their feelings, never quite knowing what to make of them. And don’t even get me started on their warm and fuzzy moments! They’re both so reluctantly tender and afraid of not having their feelings reciprocated… I just want to give both of them a hug! Honestly, I don’t remember the last time I felt so deeply for the characters I was reading about. When I finished this book I went all squealing fangirl and was like, “Eeeeeeeee! I can’t wait for my next helping of Ty and Zane!”
Last thing and then I’ll call this review quits. I just had to gush about how much I frickin’ LOVED seeing the dynamics of Ty’s family in action. There’s a kooky grandfather, a steady-as-a-rock mother who loves her family to distraction, a father so full of love and yet so hard to please, and a younger brother who worships the ground Ty walks on. I mean, COME ON! How could you not love this wonderfully dysfunctional bunch?!
I especially loved seeing the relationship between Ty and his father - it was painful to watch, but felt really realistic. As readers, we got to be privy to Earl’s innermost thoughts. We could see how much he loved his son and how friggin’ proud he was of the man Ty had become (despite the scathing comments he sometimes made that would suggest the opposite). But somehow, knowing the depth of Earl’s love for Ty only made the whole situation more gutting. Ty clearly doubts the unconditional nature of his father’s love and as a result can’t bring himself to be honest with his dad about his relationship with Zane. Every time Ty or Zane had to refrain from touching each other in Earl’s presence, my heart broke just a little bit more. I’m crossing my fingers that this father/son relationship will be revisited in later books in the series because it is so, SO precious.
Verdict: Worst vacation EVER. Though Sticks & Stones
as awesome as Cut & Run
, it was pretty damn close. You NEED to read this (and then get your butt in gear and read the next one)!