Read my reviews of the previous books in the Necessary Evils series: | book cover of Mad Man (Necessary Evils #5) by Onley James

It would have been so easy for this author to continue the same trend she has established in previous books, of a Mulvaney brother falling into attachment with a new character involved in the horrifying yet complicated external plot they must then work together to fix. Instead, just as James has switched up the relationship dynamics in each previous unconventional relationship, this point in the series was also an excellent time to change the overall pattern even more.

Two of the first differences between this book and those earlier in the series are stark. One is that the first half overlaps with the previous installment, Headcase, which is appropriate based on the initial premise of putting distance between Asa and Avi (murder twins extraordinaire) and hoping that reality doesn’t implode. The second is that Felix is not a newcomer to the Mulvaney secret since his own older brother became connected to the family in Moonstruck. That is when Avi first met Felix, and the immediate chemistry was off the charts—if, by chemistry, you mean something exceedingly dangerous and explosive.

An external mystery is present to be solved here, taking place on the other side of the country with estranged Mulvaney brother Aidan. Though multiple villains (and bodies) are involved, it is on a much smaller scale than some of the previous foes encountered in the series. However, it brings home the idea that the Mulvaneys are here to take out all the trash, no matter how big or small. In addition, Felix expresses a personal interest in the current case due to elements from his past, and Avi would not be the excessive murder twin he is if he didn’t go all-in on doing whatever Felix wants—even if that means wrangling the rest of the family’s participation. Of course, once they’re on board, we still get the outrageous forms of vengeance James has lovingly sprinkled through this series for her ridiculous readers. I especially loved that Atticus’s involvement in one scene was crafted to ensure that little chance exists of ruining his clothes.

Overall, this story contained a narrower focus on the romantic relationships our favorite psychopaths are building. James especially takes the time, now that we know Asa, to highlight how Avi is the same and where their mirror twin elements come into play. The results are as sexy, bloody, and delightful as I could have wanted. Even better, we also get the final answer to whether the twins’ significant others will accept the full dynamic required for their new lives. Here, James again shows her excellence in character creation by how Felix and Zane both complement each other and contain differences that are just as fascinating (but work so well) as those between the twins. One day, the twins might even realize that Felix and Zane are much smarter (and more lethal) than them.

My only minor complaint about this book (though not actual criticism, as I am not the author, so this does not affect my rating) is that James never delves deeper into the mental connection between the twins. We see a few interesting moments of it, both from the perspectives of one of the twins or their partners, but it’s never an immediate presence while we’re in the narrative point of view of either Asa or Avi. That is one of the most fascinating things I find about these characters, and it felt like a missed opportunity considering how much we learned about Lucas’s ability in Psycho. However, I can also see how the connection is so much a part of the characters that it is not necessary to elaborate further.

And finally, we get to spend some significant time in this book seeing the formerly little-known Aidan interact directly with Thomas, the head of the Mulvaney clan. Certain moments are so pointed that even our favorite oblivious psychopaths can’t help but notice the tension (even if their partners probably already have the betting pool organized). I’m a little sad that there are only two books left in this series, but James has definitely left the most potentially explosive and world-changing stories for last.

Disclaimer: I received an electronic review copy of this novel from the author.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

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