Cost of Repairs by A.M. Arthur
Title: Cost of Repairs
Author: A.M. Arthur
Publisher: Samhain Publishing, June 2012
Cost of Repairs is the story of Officer Samuel Briggs and Rey King, and from the first moment, it’s filled with wonderful, uncomfortable tension. Officer Briggs has just moved to Stratton, PA from New Mexico for a fresh start, a way to put his demons to rest, and regain a sense of self for which he can be proud. Rey King is a part-time short-order cook, part-time hardware store worker, and to fill the gaps, freelance handyman. Why does such a young man need to work so much? Well, Rey has his reasons.
From their first unnerving encounter when Officer Briggs is called to the diner in which Rey works to diffuse a misunderstanding, Samuel and Rey have a chemistry that is palpable. Arthur’s drawing of these two men is built slowly, layer upon layer that gives the reader time to emotionally connect to them while still leaving them shrouded in enough mystery that I wanted to read just one more page, and another page, and oh, but I can’t stop there. Dinner can wait.
With a lot of stories, the secondary characters are sometimes flat, serving their purpose to drive the plot and then disappearing again so the main players can deal with the fallout. Not so in Arthur’s story. The secondary characters are just as rich and layered (if a little less complicated) than the protagonists. While Dixie, the owner of the diner in which Rey works, has probably the smallest part in the novel, she’d have to be my favorite character, reminding me of Debbie in Queer as Folk, the kind of woman who mothers everyone and flamboyantly so. It’s no wonder those who work for her are like family, and thus, all the more believable that Rey would risk himself to save his co-worker Jennie from an assault by her ex-boyfriend. Rey ends up hurt, which sends his precarious living situation spinning wildly out of control, throwing Rey and Samuel together in a way that makes sense. While that plot line was a little predictable, the background built for both Samuel and Rey supported Samuel’s immediate instinct to reach out and help Rey.
For Rey, jaded for one so young, his emotions seesaw between disbelief that a man as good as Samuel could exist and craving Samuel’s attention to shoving the man away before he can get close enough to hurt Rey. Because for Rey, everyone he knows that well will eventually hurt him.
For Samuel, who has suffered one of the greatest losses a human being can endure, Rey’s an enigma, a puzzle to be solved. Amid Rey’s carefully neutral expressions, the controlled way he shares his opinions and thoughts, Samuel sees flashes of a man who needs to hope, needs to find a reason to live instead of coasting through as he’s done for the last several years. And Rey doesn’t expect anything from Samuel, doesn’t push him to share what he’s not ready to share, or feel what he’s not ready to feel after putting his life back together. For Samuel, this room to breathe is essential and while he battles his demons, he finds Rey to be an excellent reason for whom he should try to move on.
This is a fantastic read, with so many twists in the characters’ backgrounds I felt like I’d gotten a yoga workout just from reading. I will say that the ending, while fairly intense, didn’t quite live up to the build-up of the middle. It’s not to say plot-wise it wasn’t strong, because everything about it fit and it brought the entire novel to a logical conclusion. I only wish the main event, the moment of truth, would have been further detailed than it was. I did appreciate the ‘I’m not going to spend time monologue-ing’ business that has become trope, but I believe the climax would have been better served with a bit more depth, more insight into Samuel’s and Rey’s reactions, perhaps a slower build to the final, explosive moment.
Overall, a solid, well-written read, where the characters had depth and flaws and were sympathetic as hell. I’ll be paying attention to this author’s next effort.