Title: To The Bone
Author: Erin O’Quinn
Publisher: Amber Allure
Characters: Michael McCree, Simon Hart
Sub-Genre: Historical, Gaslight, Adventure, Suspense/Mystery, BDSM Light, Erotic Romance
The time is 1923, and the place is a fantasy city in Ireland. Two unlikely men have formed a partnership: good-natured Michael, who keeps a serious secret, and sulky Simon, who has plenty of reasons to be angry at the world. Michael has stalked the standoffish Simon from the beginning, and Simon has consistently rebuffed him…yet not enough for Michael to give up a dedicated pursuit of the handsome investigator.
As private eyes, the men have a case to solve: to find more than a score of stolen paintings, and especially one small valuable work of art worth more than all the others. But the case grows more complex the deeper they look into it. Soon Michael and Simon find themselves searching not just for a thief, but for a city-wide ring of criminals. And the closer they get to the paintings, the closer they find themselves to a killer.
Into this mix steps a man named Moshe—a pesky, secretive, nosy man who is nevertheless a brilliant investigator himself. He gives both the men fits, burrowing like a tick into their very private affairs, so close they have a hard time evading him.
Can the investigators solve a series of crimes, take care of the interfering Moshe, and drive their own intense relationship all the way to the bone?
I admit this series is one close to my heart. No pun intended.
Simon has finally started to accept his nature as an omi-palone, a homosexual, and his relationship with Michael. But a new case involving stolen paintings brings the two investigators close to Moshe, a man with many secrets and a hold on Simon, and a whole band of criminals who will stop at nothing to get away with their crimes.
As the third in the Gaslight Mysteries series, this story is best read after the previous two, Heart to Hart and Sparring With Shadows. To do so will show you the full range of the stormy relationship between Michael and Simon.
Let’s get what I didn’t like out of the way first. Moshe was IMHO the weakest link in the book. There’s very little sympathetic about his character, and every scene he was in, I wanted him gone. I’m sorry but I don’t like strangers meddling in matters that don’t concern them, let alone passing judgment. From my point of view, Michael was way too understanding with him and Simon too forgiving.
What I liked about the story, however, could fill up pages. Simon and Michael’s old adversary, the Brown Man, is shown in a different light here, and I found it to be fascinating. I wish there had been actual scenes with him, instead of people just speaking of him from afar. The case here is another curious one, a puzzle worthy of the gray cells. And proof positive everyone has secrets.
The writing is excellent, descriptive and breathtakingly visceral, close to the skin. Every scene exudes heat, passion, intelligence, and action. In short, the place, the people, the plot, all become alive. I admit I’m greedy. I want more Gaslight Mysteries. I want to learn how the city of Dun Linden works, who lives and works there, what secrets the people there are hiding. I can’t wait for more, for new cases to solve.
The pace is swift, the erotic scenes full of denied yet undeniable passion, and the plot has intricacies that are slow to reveal themselves. It’s in characterization and dialogue where Ms. O’Quinn shines, as well as world-building. The town is a living, breathing entity, which I appreciated the hell out of. Michael and Simon are probably the most fully fleshed out characters I’ve read about. I feel like I know them, and yet they both surprise me, page after page. And the rich cultural background comes through in the brilliant dialogue, with Michael’s rough speech patterns and Simon’s almost aristocratic coolness.
All in all, another wonderful story in the series. Well worth the read, and recommended to everyone who likes suspense, mysteries, historical private investigations, and complete worlds to explore.
Reviewed By: Susan