Title: Dirty Kiss
Author: Rhys Ford
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Characters: Cole Kenjiro McGinnis, Kim Jae-Min
POV: 1st person
Setting: Los Angeles
Sub-Genre: Murder Mystery/Suspense
Cover Rating: 4
Cole Kenjiro McGinnis, ex-cop and PI, is trying to get over the shooting death of his lover when a supposedly routine investigation lands in his lap. Investigating the apparent suicide of a prominent Korean businessman’s son proves to be anything but ordinary, especially when it introduces Cole to the dead man’s handsome cousin, Kim Jae-Min.
Jae-Min’s cousin had a dirty little secret, the kind that Cole has been familiar with all his life and that Jae-Min is still hiding from his family. The investigation leads Cole from tasteful mansions to seedy lover’s trysts to Dirty Kiss, the place where the rich and discreet go to indulge in desires their traditional-minded families would rather know nothing about.
It also leads Cole McGinnis into Jae-Min’s arms, and that could be a problem. Jae’s cousin’s death is looking less and less like a suicide, and Jae-Min is looking more and more like a target. Cole has already lost one lover to violence—he’s not about to lose Jae-Min too.
Cole McGinnis is haunted by memories of a horrific moment of violence, a tragic and inexplicable event that lingers, tormenting and taunting him—an event that altered his life in a matter of seconds, one for which there are no answers, no clues, no clear-cut motives. For a private investigator, a man whose mission it is to find answers, a man who is doggedly determined to pursue evidence and provide resolution for his clients, the inability to find closure for himself is an affliction he wears like a shroud, directing and hindering his ability to overcome the nightmares.
When Kim Hyun-Shik—husband, father, and son of an upstanding, traditional Korean family—is found dead of an apparent drug overdose in an upstairs room of Dorthi Ki Seu, a club where the closeted men of the Asian community go to indulge in the desires they hide from the strict conventions of their culture, all the clues point toward suicide and Hyun-Shik’s inability to cope with the shame and guilt of living a lie. But sometimes what appears on the surface to be clear cut and obvious can disguise uglier truths that lay beneath. Cole is hired by the Kim patriarch to investigate the death of his only son, to attempt to provide answers to an alleged suicide that simply doesn’t explain what truly happened to the man who had everything to live for.
As Cole pursues the truth, his investigation draws him to the Kim family—the secrets they covet, their traditions and beliefs—the evidence of Hyun-Shik’s homosexuality and proclivities lead the investigation to Kim Jae-Min, a distant cousin, family outcast, and ex-dancer at Dorthi Ki Seu.
Jae-Min is a beautiful enigma, one Cole becomes determined to unravel. Jae-Min and his cool exterior fire all of Cole’s instincts, as both an ex-police officer and as a man. Jae evades just enough to leave Cole off balance each time he discovers something about the sexy and secretive man. The deeper Cole digs, the closer he comes to discovering what truly happened to Hyun-Shik, the more the body count rises and the danger escalates for both him and Jae. Someone is determined to keep the Kim family secrets buried and that someone isn’t afraid to kill to do it.
Dirty Kiss is a nail-biting, stay-up-late, page-turner of a book. Not only does it provide plenty of thrills and mystery, it also works beautifully as the study of a man whose time has come—time for healing, time for moving forward, time to find love again, time to give himself a second chance at life.
Cole and Jae-Min play beautifully against each other as the man whose Japanese/Irish ancestry are nothing more than a distant concept, whereas Jae-Min’s Korean ancestry means everything to him, even if it comes at the expense of his own happiness. They are a complex couple: a man who refuses to allow society or family to dictate whom he can love, falling for a man who refuses to allow his desires to compromise his familial obligations. It’s a conflict that’s not easily resolved, and I for one can’t wait to see where life takes these two characters next.
Rhys Ford allows Cole to tell his story with humor and emotion. The supporting characters are each distinctly portrayed: friends, family, whatever the association to Cole and Jae-Min, they each fulfill an important role in the plot, and they do it beautifully.
Reviewed By: Lisa