It has been seven years since Cole Flores and Ned O’Leary’s explosive separation. Seven years where Cole assumed Ned was dead or so well hidden he’d never be found. Dead is exactly where Cole wants him. After all, Ned set in motion the destruction of Cole’s family and killed his mentor. Cole has spent his time trying to put the past behind him and the last thing he wants to deal with are ghosts from the pasts.
But when fate brings them face to face again, Cole and Ned realize their business is far from over. An old enemy is hunting them and hiding is no longer an option. Trying to figure out their next move is easy compared to untangling all the love and hate that exists between them. The hate can destroy them and love might save them, but either way, Ned and Cole will end things the way they started: together.
The Man Who Hated Ned O’Leary is a the second in the Dig Two Graves Series and the books must be read in order. One of the things I enjoyed about the first book, The Man Who Loved Cole Flores, was that it had such a strong sense of time and place. It was a western in the truest sense of the word and had that feel about it. Unfortunately, most of that is lost in The Man Who Hated Ned O’Leary. We get a brief flirtation with it during the initial quarter of the book, but then it mostly disappears and what’s left behind is rather ordinary. The story plays out as expected and lacks the intensity that drove the first novel. I never really believed that Cole hated Ned as much he claimed and the two fell back into their old patterns a little too easily. Ned’s downward spiral into alcoholism and a near madness is portrayed well and felt in line with his character’s moral complexity.
Pacing is an ongoing issue throughout The Man Who Hated Ned O’Leary. The story tended to limp along rather than seem focused. Often I felt as though events were telegraphed, therefore lacking in surprise, or that it took so long to reach them, it was hard to maintain my interest. There’s still plenty of violence to be had, though it’s toned down somewhat. One positive inclusion is the introduction of a new character who brings out the better natures in both Ned and Cole. As a result, it was easier to like them this time around and while I wasn’t exactly riveted to the story, I did find myself more deeply invested in their relationship.
On the one hand, The Man Who Hated Ned O’Leary didn’t really work for me because it just wasn’t the western its predecessor was. There was a blandness about it that I found disappointing. But the flip side is that Ned and Cole are more enjoyable as characters and it was easier to champion them as a couple. If you enjoyed the first book, I’d recommend reading The Man Who Hated Ned O’Leary to discover more of Ned and Cole’s journey.