Tom is a copper, a decent one who doesn’t take bribes and keeps his neighbourhood safe. He’s hiding a past of violence and betrayal, something he walked away from for everyone’s safety. Cicero is a familiar, a shapeshifter, who works with the local magical police for protection, but hasn’t yet agreed to bond with a witch. They’re thrown together to solve two murders — which stir up horrifying echoes for both of them, of pasts they’ve tried to put behind them — and at first it seems like they’re oil and water. Cicero constantly makes assumptions about Tom based on his job and appearance, but slowly, of course, sparks start to fly.
There is of course a wrenching part of the romance (as so often) where the secrets Tom is keeping come back to haunt him, leaving Cicero feeling lied to and abandoned. Obviously there were so many opportunities to do better and to communicate with Cicero — but at least it seems to make sense that he doesn’t. He doesn’t realise his past is relevant to the case, and he’s committed to a better future, one with Cicero in it; the smart thing would be to ‘fess up, of course, but… that’s difficult, and didn’t seem important. It makes sense.
A lot of people mention not loving this book as much as the Widdershins books, but I disagree. That’s partly down to my pet peeves: Whyborne’s obsessive lack of self-esteem over the course of several books drives me nuts, and the lack of communication between him and Griffin comes back again and again and again. For that reason, this clicked better for me (which is not to say that I find nothing to enjoy in the Widdershins books).
There are some gruesome bits of this story, just as a warning. There’s also some period typical homophobia, though not amongst the main characters or anyone who matters. I’m looking forward to glimpsing Cicero and Tom in the stories of the others…