My desire to read just about every bl manga available faltered a bit in December and then, without warning, died a very quick death towards the end of January. Now, I read significantly less manga, not that I’ve come anywhere close to replacing it with something else–I’m just too lazy to deal with disappointment, so I keep re-reading stuff I already know I’ll enjoy. Which I said I wasn’t going to do, but…whatever. However, I have taken a few chances which now have me ankle deep in M/M novels–as I said, not a replacement, but I have been reading a lot lately. Mostly hits and only one real miss. Color me surprised. Also, color me brave.
Even though I was really into NCIS and CSI (not Miami…never Miami), I’m not usually drawn to BL or M/M police or FBI stories. Yakuza or the underbelly of society? Yes. Law enforcement? Enh… But I came across Cut & Run as a recommendation on The Slash Pile and it appealed to me. Never heard of the authors (yeah, two of them…) and the story was published in 2008, so I kind of braced myself for out-of-date–read: limited and stereotypical–characterizations of macho gay men. So what did I get?
Ty and Zane are FBI agents who get partnered together to take over a case that had progressed to the point to where the agents they were taking over for had become part of it. They’ve both had it rough and that manifests as a chip on their shoulders. Ty’s in the form of what passes well for insubordination and arseholery and Zane’s in the form of a buttoned up and by the book disposition. They hated each other on sight. But watching them fight and fall for each other over the course of a week was uncomfortably nice. They have so many issues and I was very happy that they weren’t exactly resolved by the end of the book. Their development wasn’t really romantic. It was more like two guys standing in a room with all their baggage between them and, in the midst of taking their ever-loving sweet time rummaging around in and unpacking each other’s mess, they find things that they can tolerate about each other, maybe something they like about each other, a lot of things they can’t stand about each other, and the one thing they can agree on: lust for each other.
Seeing how they were so awful at just being partners, I didn’t know how they were going to get to first base; I only hoped that it wouldn’t be somebody slamming somebody against a wall and then kissing them instead of punching them, followed by angry sex. Oddly enough, when you string it all together, that’s pretty much what happened. Just not in that overused, heat-of-the-moment way. And, honestly, I think it was one of the best sequences in the book. Things only get crazier from there. The serial killer they’re after sets his sights on them, so they try to unravel the mystery all while dodging fists, explosions, uncontrollable attraction, and the constant provocation of lurking demons and clinging monkeys–with varying levels of success.
There is a particular element of the plot that is so near and dear to me and I was very happy to see it used in such a way. And that I didn’t become even the slightest bit suspicious about it until halfway through the book speaks to the author’s ability to implement suspense and intrigue without giving much away. Aside from that aspect, I kind of had the case figured out from very early on. By no means is it obvious, but I have a knack for that kind of thing–something like an 85%-90% success rate–so my enjoyment is usually derived from the seeing how the story actually develops. Also, I like to see if an author can mislead me to the point where I second guess myself. I’m happy to say that they did.
Sadly, it wasn’t without its issues. I was braced for it, so I wasn’t really surprised about the things that bugged me. First, a handful of dialogue read like, in the authors’ heads they thought, “This is how men talk so it will be acceptable.” But it was just grossly misogynistic. Piggybacking on that, the second thing that gave me pause was the way the women were written. None of them were in the story all that much, but when they were, they were either flirtatious, demanding, petty, or specifically associated with death. In and of themselves, these are fine as one facet among many, but if those are really all each woman was, then that is just gross.
The third on the list gets a trigger warning for substance abuse. I can’t say that the consequences and such were glossed over, because they did touch on some important aspects of it. However, some parts did feel kind of light and some of the things that were meant to read as understanding or resolved, really read as characteristics of an unhealthy relationship. All things considered, though, it was handled rather well–nothing gratuitous–but it’s a plot point that shows up quite a bit in the latter half of the story, so if you’re sensitive to this topic, I’d say skip this one.
The last one is kind of difficult to explain. Ty and Zane separate for a while and when they reunite, the topic of what and who they did while they were apart came up. Zane told Ty that he did have sex, but not with any men. There is just a feeling of wrongness about what that implies. I don’t understand why they felt the need to have him say that, like there’s some sort of difference. I mean, technically, yes, there’s a difference between having sex with a man and having sex with a woman. But in the context of the scene it doesn’t make any sense. Considering the characters, it doesn’t make any sense. Like, why does him having sex but not having sex with a man matter? I would think that the fact that he had sex at all would be the concern, not which gender he had sex with. The thing is though, it isn’t all that wrong, because I’m sure it matters to someone. But that’s, I guess, coming from a place of experience and perspective, but it also–and I mean no disrespect to anyone–reeks of low self esteem. Again, hard to explain, especially when they never define their relationship, but to me, neither one of them seem like the sharing type. So it doesn’t read well for Ty and Zane, and it just ends up sounding like…just something that…reminds me of a lot of the exploitative attitudes many BL mangaka have. My apologies, that’s the closet I can get to a coherent explanation.
The way the relationship, the events, and the encounters are written, the issues I have don’t standout all that much, but they might linger a bit in the back of the reader’s mind–vaguely for some, starkly for others. I no longer read for the sake of reading. I’m not sure if I ever really did, even the times reading was primarily an escape. I read as a reader, a writer, a fangirl, a reviewer, and an editor, all at once, so there are some things I can’t avoid seeing.
Overall, I enjoyed the story; it was rather engaging. I think what saves it for me most is that this is book one of nine (yeah, I’m reading book two next) and it doesn’t end by trying to convince you they’ll live happily ever after.