Noah Downing is at an FBI conference in Las Vegas and while he’s sitting alone at a bar one night he meets a very handsome man he merely knows as Cole. After a lengthy conversation followed by a jazz concert in a smokey “hole-in-the-wall” establishment, Noah ends up in Cole’s hotel room where they do more than just sleep together, helping Noah to realize what he has wondered about himself. Noah Downing is gay. He returns to his home and job in Des Moines due to an attack by a serial killer. When the FBI in Des Moines realizes they need help they call in for the FBI’s best profiler. He arrives from DC and introduces himself as Dr. Kennedy. Dr. Cole Kennedy.
“The Grave Between Us”
After the serial murders that reunited Noah and Cole the two of them are spotted by an escaped serial killer who has a particular interest in Cole. It turns out that when Cole was still working on his doctorate he interrogated a killer, Ian Ingram, who was arrested for one confirmed murder. Cole was sent in to find out where the other bodies were buried. After numerous interrogation sessions where Cole crawled deeply into Ian’s brain, he is rewarded with a list from Ian. While being transported back to prison Ian escapes and effectively hides from law enforcement for several years. He comes out of hiding when he sees Cole and Noah together. Now Cole and Noah must protect each other before Ian strikes next. These two books, “The Murder Between Us” and “The Grave Between Us” collectively make up The Noah & Cole Thrillers.
Author Tal Bauer is not just another writer in a long list of LGBTQ writers creating content for LGBTQ readers. His background in law enforcement has enabled him to create a world that is more than believable. All of the details in how the FBI functions are displayed. They are necessary to give the characters of Noah and Cole, as well as the supporting law enforcement players, complete believability. Bauer does an amazing job at going over the various steps the FBI goes through as part of any investigation they take on. Perhaps it’s not always as exciting as these books present them to be, but there is still a sense of authenticity in how they are presented. This does more than help serve the plot as it also helps to bring each story down to a nail-biting climax.
Balancing out these suspenseful stories are the rich characters who inhabit them. Noah and Cole are not just your average FBI agents from any book. From the very first page of “The Murder Between Us,” we are introduced to Noah Downing as a very real person with some serious insecurities and anxieties. We learn early on that he’s a divorced father with a daughter in high school named Katie, and he’s initially terrified of anyone, especially his ex-wife (who is higher on the totem pole than he is), finding out that he’s gay. He’s afraid he’ll lose his job, but more importantly, he’s deeply afraid of losing Katie. Cole is more of a mystery as we are introduced to him at the same time as Noah meets him. When it comes to Cole we don’t get much from Bauer and for a good reason. Cole is very much out and proud as a gay man and comes across as a man overflowing with self-confidence, but that’s all he is. It is that which forms the choices that Cole makes as he tries to navigate some type of relationship with Noah, both professionally and personally. Each character’s voice is clear and distinct to the point where any reader could start to visualize them and see all that they do. Theater of the mind. Bauer has the reader feel the tension felt by either Noah or Cole when lives are at stake. He also crafts the perfect mystery that had me guessing and second-guessing who the culprit might be in “The Murder Between Us” but logically throws in curveballs when vital information is uncovered. Even then, the mystery makes sense and is solvable for those readers who love to play detective.
Bauer’s books (I’m currently reading his 5th novel right now.) have the perfect balance of plot movement and character development. No, balance isn’t the proper term. They are intertwined. It’s not a balance. It’s a symbiosis. I’ve only read very few books where authors have successfully managed to write stories where the characters don’t feel as if they’re just along for the ride as events unfold around them. Bauer’s characters don’t just react. They act and in doing so helps to give the feeling of fluidity with the stories. Despite being merely words on a page, the stories in “The Murder Between Us” and “The Grave Between Us” have breath. They feel alive, which is why that “The Grave Between Us” is so psychologically dark and disturbing. I approached that book with great trepidation after learning that some early readers of it proclaimed to have nightmares because of it. While that did not happen to me I did find many parts of it to be incredibly disturbing, and I am fairly certain that was Bauer’s intent.
I’m always on the lookout for that author whose work turns me into an avid fan. I am now quite the fan of Tal Bauer, and if you’re interested in reading a solid suspenseful thriller and mystery, with well-rounded LGBTQ characters then you too will become a fan. These are the strongest stories I have ever read in this specific genre, and I eagerly look forward to reading what new masterpiece will be coming from Tal Bauer.
Both books in The Noah & Cole Thrillers are available on Amazon in both print and for the Kindle. Tal Bauer also has the website, Tal Bauer.
The Noah & Cole Thrillers are for readers 18 years and up due to scenes of both explicit man-on-man sex as well as passages of intense violence.