Book Review – Cryptic by Jodi Payne & BA Tortuga

Puzzles #1
Publisher: Tygerseye Publishing
Pages: 148
Characters: Derek/Matthew
POV: 3rd
Genre: Mystery/Detective, Series

Derek “Crash” Wheeler never really wanted to make detective. He was a good marine and a great beat cop, but now he has to deal with cases like the one that just landed in his lap. Multiple deaths. Probably a serial killer. And if that isn’t bad enough, now he has a crazy ex-profiler calling and texting, acting like he knows exactly what’s going on.

Matthew Herrera has more than one clue about Derek’s case. He worked on a serial murder case once that took everything away from him, and while the perpetrator went to jail, Matthew knows the case isn’t over. This murderer likes to play games, and he doesn’t work alone.

Racing against time, Derek and Matthew have to learn to work together to solve this case, and they find they have a chemistry they can’t deny, even if it feels selfish to indulge. People are dying out there, and it will take all their skills to work out this puzzle before it’s too late, or before one of them becomes the next victim.

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I loved this first book in a new series. It’s a wonderful mix of mystery, tension, romance, and a nasty serial killer with his eye on one of the MCs. I liked how personal the race to find the bad guy was, and how all the clues came together. I’m already looking forward to the next book as it feels that, although this part of the puzzle is finished, Derek and Matt’s fight against the person behind everything is far from over.

The story hooked me in immediately. I thought using puzzles as a plot point was very clever, and I liked how Matt was able to use them to figure out the bad guy’s next move. Poor Matt! I liked how the authors didn’t pull any punches in showing how much he’s been through. I also liked how Ben is still very much a part of this story and Matt’s life. I kept wondering how much more Matt will lose before this series is done. I thought the authors did a great job in showing how scarred he is.

I liked Derek, and the chemistry between him and Matt. They’re what the other needs, and I liked how protective they already are of each other. I’m seriously worried that Derek is now a target, and kept second guessing what could go wrong as I was reading.

The tension is palpable throughout and keeps rising. Nicely done!

I hope we won’t have to wait too long to find out what happens next.

5 out of 5 stars.

About Anne Barwell

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with a cat with “tortitude” who is convinced that the house is run to suit her; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date, it appears as though Kaylee may be winning. In 2008, Anne completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra. She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth. She also hosts and reviews for other authors, and writes monthly blog posts for Love Bytes. She is the co-founder of the New Zealand Rainbow Romance writers, and a member of RWNZ. Anne’s books have received honorable mentions five times, reached the finals four times—one of which was for best gay book—and been a runner up in the Rainbow Awards. She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical. Anne can be found at
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