“One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is that a cat has only nine lives.” ~ Mark Twain
The last thing Tom Halloran ever expected to be is a police officer, but when the universe offered him a second chance, he took it. It's been eight years since he joined the force and he has definitely turned over a new leaf. Tom is living the life he may have had if he had not been born into a family involved in crime. The people on his beat like him because he's friendly and helpful, unlike most coppers in the city. Tom is also honest, another rare commodity in a place where corruption runs rampant. For the most part, Tom is happy, that is, until a similar crime occurs to the one that changed his life. In the past, Tom may have turned a blind eye to the situation and ignored the similarities, but he's changed a lot from the man he used to be and is finding it nearly impossible to do so now. It is both threatening and serendipitous when his chief assigns him to investigate in collaboration with the Witch Police, another murder that may be connected. Tom can hardly believe it when he stands in Witch Police headquarters. The city police and Witch police are not known for their cooperation and are often at odds with each other so it's a surprise not only to him, but to Cicero, the unbonded familiar, a cat shifter, Tom is paired with.
Cicero is appalled when he meets Tom. Not only is Tom completely the opposite appearance and personality-of someone Cicero would normally be attracted to, Cicero immediately recognizes him as his witch! Combine that with the usual distain witch police have for the regular police officers and it's a perfect firestorm. At first, Cicero refuses to work with Tom, but when he finds that the only way he can continue his investigation into his friend's death is to work with him, he relents and reluctantly agrees. As much as Cicero fights it, he has to eventually realize that Tom, although he's a big burly man, is not like other coppers he's known. He's constantly surprising Cicero with his easygoing, patient understanding of things instead of the bluster, anger, and brutality he's used to seeing.
Cicero intrigues Tom as well, not just because of his beautiful eyes, hair, and grace, but also with his cat-like mannerisms, i.e., lapping up the cream in his coffee or curling in a ball to sleep, but Tom figures Cicero is too sophisticated for him. Tom and Cicero go undercover, working at a resort called The Spitting Rooster, Cicero as an exotic dancer and Tom as a bartender, in hopes of obtaining more information about the two crimes they are working on. Their new identities are in place but Tom and Cicero are still careful to play them well; but it's not easy. There are several unforeseen complications that pop up, threatening to blow their cover. Cicero has to fight off the advances of customers; for Tom the deeper they get into the investigation, the more Tom exposes his secret by using skills and knowledge he obtained in his past. Tom knows that suspicion about his expertise is building and, if keeps helping, it's only a matter of time until his lies are discovered. Tom hates lying to Cicero and doesn't want to lose him, but he reaches the point where he is in a no-win situation. If Tom openly uses the skills he possesses to help prevent more crime, he will also have to reveal how and where he acquired them and Tom knows that his conscience won't let him just walk away from his responsibilities.
Jordan has created an awesome alternative world with some real history thrown in along with it for good measure. It's just close enough to what could have happened for me to believe it did. The characters are imaginative, unique, and exotic. There's a Witch police force as well as a regular one. The rivalry between the two police forces plays a big part by causing another source of resistance keeping Tom and Cicero apart. The sexual tension sizzles while they sort out their misconceptions about one another and it explodes into some seriously steamy sex scenes that are erotic and evocative.
I enjoyed seeing Dominick and Rook from Jordan's short story, 'The Thirteenth Hex' which is a prequel. It's not essential that you read it first because Jordan has put enough background into this story to make it stand on its own, but I highly recommend that you do so to get more enjoyment out of it. If you enjoy paranormal fantasy with witches, familiars who are shifters, hexes, history, and magic, you may love this novel. Thank you, Jordan, for writing a story containing frightening elements that I normally shy away from and making me love it.