I just read the entire Flesh Cartel Series by Rachel Haimowitz and Heidi Belleau in about a week and oh my f**** god! The insight these two authors master into the characters, the world building, and the sheer imagination when it comes to pain and humiliation might be what makes this torturous and extremely graphically detailed book series one of my favorites.
I read them back to back, skulked all my chores, forgot to sleep, and when I managed, I woke up in the middle of the night because of a serious book hangover! I would love to have managed a review per book or even per season but nope, had to keep reading. Now it’s done, and I’m so miffed because of it! It will definitely be a series I reread at some point because I’m sure there’s a second layer to the psychology in there that I missed the first time around. Also because my skin crawled with the horrors and it definitely wasn’t a thrilling read a lot of the time, but a bone-chilling and very uncomfortable yet very insightful story.
We follow several POVs in this series, telling the story about the Carmichael brothers Dougie/Douglas/Doug and his older brother Mat/Mathias/Stonewall (and once you read the story you’ll figure out why I have to write all three variations of their name). They’re kidnapped by a cartel who train and trade sex slaves.
We follow Nikolai, one of the cartel’s best trainers.
And we follow an FBI agent named Nate.
These POVs make for an intricate and equally uncomfortable and stunning insight into these very different characters’ personalities and psyches. The story unfolds from what looks like unnecessarily brutal and graphic rape and torture scenes. But these scenes make for a foundation so necessary for us to be able to delve into these different mindsets and this cleverly and (full body shivering) credible world-build.
Whether one would read this for the thrill/chill, doesn’t matter—the development of these characters is worth the discomfort one might feel from the graphic and unrelenting horrors. Because there’s so much beauty in there, too. Something pure. Something so very human. Something so nuanced that I definitely need to reread the story because my mind keeps taking me back to each of the nuances the authors have managed to pinpoint. And I’m pretty sure I missed a few.