Heather Levy’s debut novel, Walking Through Needles, made clear that she was an author determined to write mysteries that push boundaries—without worry about the delicate sensibilities of the Old Guard—forging virgin ground and embracing new readers to the genre with open arms. With her second book, Hurt for Me, Heather Levy makes a (role)play for the title of new Queen of Kink Crime.
Rae Dixon’s journey has been anything but easy. She survived a past filled with trauma, making a life for herself and her teenage daughter. As the proprietor of a health spa which hides a more thriving and lucrative business as a dominatrix, Rae—or Mistress V—has found a way to reclaim the power stolen from her by the sex traffickers.
When one of her regular submissive clients goes missing, Rae is unwittingly thrust into Detective Clearwater’s spotlight. This is further complicated by the disappearance of some women involved in the same underground kink community. The ordeal of Rae’s past is never far from her mind, but this situation has the risks of re-traumatizing her and opening up all the old wounds.
By using a dual timeline as the central structural element throughout most of the book, Levy is able to create a conversation between Rae’s past self and the powerful woman she has become in the present day. This allows the reader to witness the gradual growth and also to understand where the vulnerabilities in her armor reside. It is a clever way to generate another level of suspense for the reader, drilled down onto the character-level.
Hurt For Me is a sex-positive work that refuses to allow the sexual elements to…for lack of a better word…dominate. The kink community is exposed in all its complexity. In many ways, the book takes traditional romantic suspense tropes and elevates both the romance and the thriller elements to create something that feels organically original. Hurt for Me is definitely not a book that will resonate with all readers. But there is nothing wrong with that.
Heather Levy is staking her claim on a corner of the crime fiction community that is vastly underserved. She manages to write a tale that seems noir without falling into the many traps of that sub-genre. Despite the heavy topics that form the bones of Hurt for Me, this is a book that never feels oppressively dark and depressing. Mind you, it’s no walk in the park, but Levy’s ease in telling the story makes the reader feel comfortable trusting her. In some ways, that very dynamic echoes the Dom/Sub encounters throughout the novel.
It certainly helps that Rae is a character readers are happy to cheer for. She is the heart of Hurt for Me and she will not be forgotten by her fans anytime soon. The same can be said for her creator—Heather Levy. Her crime fiction career is still in its early stages, but it is impossible not to recognize the risks Heather Levy is taking and to be intrigued with where this author will travel with future works.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the author. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.