Title: Conflict of Interest
Author Name & Publisher: Zahra Owens (Dreamspinner Press)
Publication Date & Length: April 15, 2015 – 276 pgs
When a material witness changes her story during a court interrogation, allowing the man who assaulted her little boy to go free, Senior Crown Prosecutor Finn DeHavilland’s legendary self-control goes out the window. His subsequent suspension from appearing in court leaves Finn with time on his hands. Desperate to continue working, and after regularly attending his mandatory psychiatric sessions, he accepts a delicate case involving a fraudulent Scotland Yard police detective.
Excited to be assigned to the case, DS Tommy Drummond, who has had a soft spot for Finn since Finn defended him during an internal investigation, and his partner, Stevie Fielding, begin uncovering evidence. A series of seemingly random occurrences muddle their investigation. Believing they’re on the right path, the team pushes forward, until Tommy’s apartment goes up in flames. Offering Tommy a guest room in his home turns up the heat on the growing feelings between Finn and Tommy. But Finn’s baggage may be too much to deal with, and paranoia threatens to tear them apart. As the net around the corrupt detective tightens, it becomes clear he must have had help from high places, and Finn and Tommy become pawns in the game.
I enjoyed this London based tale of judicial corruption. There is probably enough plot here for a whole series, so this is a very busy, rather complicated book. On one level, this is a detective story with Tommy, a Scotland Yard detective and Finn, a prosecutor, teamed up to unravel a corruption scandal. Their sleuthing becomes dangerous as they start to uncover the true depths of the corruption.
On another level, this is an unlikely romance between a blue collar cop and a white collar barrister. Both men are deeply damaged, though it is Finn’s issues that leave him unable to work or manage a relationship.
Between mental health issues, house fires, muggings, historic child abuse, escaped convicts, departmental moles and a hostage situation, Finn and Tommy start an ill-advised relationship.
Yes, I meant it. This plot is very busy!
As the baddies spiral out of control, the plot becomes increasingly implausible. Spread over a few books, the relationship between Finn and Tommy might have been more believable. If the string of incidents related to the investigation had also been spread across a series, I could have engaged more with the story. Instead, this is a breathless rush from start to end with plausibility and character development sacrificed along the way.
I enjoyed the British setting and characters (I kept imagining Finn as Rupert Penry Jones in Silk). There is potential for this to grow into a great crime series, but the pace would need to slow down for me to fully engage with the writing.
ZAHRA OWENS is a multi-lingual globetrotter who loves big cities, but also has a weak spot for the wide-open spaces that are so rare where she lives.
She likes her men either tough on the outside but with a huge soft center, or strong, silent and damaged. She makes it her personal goal to find them their happy-ever-after, the road there often leading via hospital beds, villas with gorgeous vistas or ranges full of horses.
Zahra is a proud member of the Rainbow Romance Writers, the Romance Writers of America, and is also a member of RWA’s Professional Author’s Network.
If Zahra had her wish, a day would have at least 36 hours, because how else would she find the time to finish all the novels still inside her head?