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Heat Trap (The Plumber's Mate) (Volume 3) Paperback – February 7, 2018
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Heat Trap is the third book in the series and works best read in order as the series has a personal and romance arc that ongoing through the series.
Dramatic, hot-headed, snarky, yet charming Tom Paretski is your every day joe plumber with a not so every day psychic gift. Tom can find things that are hidden- lost jewelry, lost letters, and, unfortunately, the lost body now and again. This gift is what usually gets him into trouble- the murdering and dangerous kind of trouble, that is. Tom is the sole narrator for his adventures with brooding PI boyfriend Phil, dazzling and flamboyant best mate Gary, crusty copper friend Dave, and other assorted and quirky family and friends around his Hertfordshire country community.
Heat Trap takes place about six month after the events of Relief Valve, book two. The first two books in the series lean strongly on the mystery element with Tom's personal affairs weaving through it. Heat Trap is different. The author introduces the body finding in the prologue and then steps back to show the reader how things came to this point. I think the prologue was a good tool for letting the reader know that there will eventually be a murder, but first, there are relationship and family issues for Tom to sort out in his usual touchy and sometimes temperamental way that eventually finds him figuring it out and doing the right thing because he's a kind, decent guy at heart.
Tom's really facing a lot of deep and messy emotional issues in this story and I thought it was well-done showing his struggles and then growth from it. For the case, there are the elements of domestic abuse, mostly emotional, which is so hard to pinpoint to authorities and the perp is a pro at gaslighting so that Marianne and many others including Phil and Tom have little recourse when Grant is threatening them. In his personal life, Tom must come to terms with the fact that the man he grew up calling dad isn't his birth dad and his mom had an affair. How can he go on as usual? What's the story with his birth dad? Why didn't he want me and should I want to find him? He can't seem to find his footing with all that swirling in his head. And, then there is Phil's past secret that is revealed at the worst of times and pushes Tom too far after everything else.
That said, the book is not heavy and dreary because the reader still gets the benefit of Tom's cheeky and hilarious (at times, hostile) wit in his mental monologues and interactions with his friends and family. There are the usual funny plumber situations, over the top occasions with his buddy Gary, awkward family dinners, and of course the bedroom and otherwise acrimonious to amorous antics with Phil.
There are some dragging moments as Tom makes his rounds and it doesn't seem like much is really moving forward, but overall, I enjoyed the balance of the plot elements. The mystery wasn't that complex and the focus was on Tom's life more than the murder, but it wasn't obvious whodunnit either.
All in all, this was another fabulous outing with a series that is addictive and something a little different. I can definitely recommend it to those who enjoy lighter mysteries blended with the country village life of an average joe with a strong sense of humor.