Review: The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah and Agatha Christie

monogram murders by sophie hannah and agatha christieFormat read: ebook borrowed from the library
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: mystery
Series: Hercule Poirot #43
Length: 320 pages
Publisher: William Morrow
Date Released: September 9, 2014
Purchasing Info: Sophie Hannah’s Website, Agatha Christie’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Hercule Poirot’s quiet supper in a London coffeehouse is interrupted when a young woman confides to him that she is about to be murdered. She is terrified – but begs Poirot not to find and punish her killer. Once she is dead, she insists, justice will have been done.

Later that night, Poirot learns that three guests at a fashionable London Hotel have been murdered, and a cufflink has been placed in each one’s mouth. Could there be a connection with the frightened woman? While Poirot struggles to put together the bizarre pieces of the puzzle, the murderer prepares another hotel bedroom for a fourth victim…

My Review:

I enjoyed reading The Monogram Murders quite a bit. Enough to finish it in a single day.

However, for all the purists out there, my primary introduction to the works of Dame Agatha is through the TV series; I have read a very few of the actual books, but mostly, I have enjoyed the various performances of her work.

David Suchet as Poirot

David Suchet as Poirot

I could hear David Suchet as Poirot in many of his lines in The Monogram Murders. Which does not make the book the epitome of Dame Agatha’s, work, but does make it seem in keeping with his TV portrayal of Poirot. So perhaps a good adaptation of an adaptation?

The entree to The Monogram Murders certainly seemed to fit Poirot; he takes a vacation to rest his “little grey cells” by pretending to leave London. Instead he takes a room at a boarding house within sight of his apartments.

He also finds a mystery where at first there doesn’t seem to be one; the mysterious and seemingly frightened “Jennie” who interrupts his dinner to announce that someone is trying to murder her and that she deserves it. The scenario is guaranteed to garner Poirot’s interest. As it was intended both by the author and by Jennie herself.

All of Poirot’s mysteries are complicated and convoluted, and this one proves to be no exception.

Meanwhile, Poirot’s erstwhile friend, the police detective Edward Catchpool, has left the scene of not one, but three murders in an upscale hotel. Although the victims initially seem to have nothing in common, all their bodies were formally laid out in the same ceremonial manner, leading to the inevitable conclusion that they were all murdered by the same person.

When Poirot and Catchpool relate their evening activities to each other back at the rooming house, Poirot immediately jumps to the conclusion that his mysterious Jennie is somehow involved with Catchpool’s three murders.

Catchpool is a reasonably good detective; his version of Occam’s Razor tells him that while the three murder victims must have something to do with each other, Poirot’s Jennie, while possibly in trouble, couldn’t possibly have anything to do with his case.

Of course Catchpool is wrong, or this wouldn’t be a case for Hercule Poirot.

Philip Jackson as Inspector Japp

Philip Jackson as Inspector Japp

Poirot takes it upon himself (doesn’t he always?) to insert himself into his friend’s case. Catchpool is savvy enough to know that while he will get the official credit (or official blame if it goes wrong) it is really Poirot’s case and Catchpool is just there to give Poirot official standing. He’s also aware that he isn’t senior enough to be left a case this big on his own without Poirot. He feels slightly trapped a good chunk of the time. (I wonder how Inspector Japp used to feel?)

The murders seem like the kind of overdone melodrama that is also designed to get Poirot’s attention. The three victims not only knew each other, but were involved in a long-ago scandal that resulted in two suicides. It’s no wonder that someone killed them, it’s just a question of who.

And whether or not there will be another victim before Poirot figures things out.

Escape Rating B-: As I said at the top, I could practically hear David Suchet reading Poirot’s dialog, so the story felt like it captured his “voice” pretty well.

On the other hand, and while this seems off-topic it wasn’t for me; Edward Catchpool’s name reminded me all too much of Eric Catchpole, the assistant on Lovejoy. Eric is not the brightest bulb in the pack, so that resemblance was not a good thing. (I digress)

I did wonder why the author created an entirely new sidekick for Poirot instead of using any of the familiar faces. Where was Japp? Has he retired by the time of this story? (I miss the original crew of Japp, Hastings and Lemon.)

One of the things that struck me in the book, that is often swept along by the action in the TV series, is just how convoluted the mystery turns out to be. Naturally, the perpetrator is never the obvious person, or Poirot’s help would not be needed, but still, the way that this particular crime reached back into the distant past felt a bit contrived.

Also, the originating scandal was one that may have been reasonable at the point where Christie was writing, but the behavior of the people in that small village 16 years previous to this story just didn’t feel true-to-life. Or it may be that times have changed just too much. Your milage may vary.

monogram murders by sophie hannah international edAlthough speaking of the times changing, the international cover of The Monogram Murders captures the art deco feeling that one associates with Poirot much better than the US cover. Again, milage definitely varies.

None of these quibbles change the fact that I had an absolutely marvelous time reading The Monogram Murders. It reminds me more than a bit of Jill Paton Walsh’s re-creations of Lord Peter Wimsey; it may not be the original, but it is the best we’ve got. If it’s an echo of Christie’s genius, it is still a lovely echo to hear.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.
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Review: The Key by Pauline Baird Jones

key by pauline baird jonesFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook, paperback, audiobook
Genre: science fiction romance
Series: Project Enterprise #1)
Length: 471 pages
Publisher: L & L Dreamspell
Date Released: August 14, 2007
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

When Sara Donovan joins Project Enterprise she finds out that what doesn’t kill her makes her stronger. An Air Force pilot – the best of the best to be assigned to this mission – Sara isn’t afraid to travel far beyond the Milky Way on an assignment that takes her into a galaxy torn apart by a long and bitter warfare between the Dusan and the Gadi. After she’s shot down and manages to land safely on an inhospitable planet, Sara encounters Kiernan Fyn – a seriously hot alien with a few secrets of his own – he’s a member of a resistance group called the Ojemba, lead by the mysterious and ruthless Kalian. Together they must avoid capture, but can they avoid their growing attraction to each other? A mysterious, hidden city on the planet brings Sara closer to the answers she seeks – about her baffling abilities and her mother’s past. She has no idea she’s being pulled into the same danger her mother fled – the key to a secret left behind by a lost civilization, the Garradians. The Dusan and the Gadi want the key. So do the Ojemba. They think Sara has it. They are willing to do anything to get it. Sara will have to do anything to stop them.

My Review:

The difficult thing about reviewing for the Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly isn’t the book I’m assigned–it’s the commitment to review one “classic” work of SFR. The definition of “classic” is thankfully loose–the book just has to be older than the current quarter.

core punch by pauline baird jonesSince I chose Core Punch by Pauline Baird Jones for my current book (review to come), my decision was made for me, sorta/kinda. Core Punch is a spinoff of not one but two of Jones’ series; Project Enterprise and The Big Uneasy. Much as I love the sound of The Big Uneasy (yes, it’s New Orleans) it doesn’t quite seem like SFR.

The Key is very much SFR. And here we are.

The crew of Project Enterprise, which in this story is a group of ships, and not just one intrepid explorer, has definitely gone where no Terran has gone before. Unfortunately, they’ve ended up in a galaxy under extreme contention between two empires, the Gadi and the Dusan. The non-aligned Terrans, and their flagship Doolittle, choose sides pretty quickly when the Dusan start a shooting war without provocation.

If the Doolittle isn’t named after Lieutenant Colonel James “Jimmy” Doolittle, U.S. Army Air Forces, the leader of the famous “Doolittle Raid” over Tokyo during World War II, I’ll eat my rocketship. Or yours, just find me one.

The Key to the story, and to the intergalactic hi-jinks that ensue, is Captain Sara Donovan, a hot shot Air Force pilot who joined to explore new worlds meet new people, and kill them. Mostly Sara just wants to fly fast and far. The mission of Project Enterprise to another galaxy is about as far as it gets.

Except that she may have come right back to where she belongs. Sara bears an incredibly strong resemblance to a legendary woman of the Garradians, and all the planetary powers that be are much too certain that Sara is the key to a vast treasure-trove, because the legendary Miri must have given that key to her.

And Sara, who has always been firmly convinced that she is not beautiful, is utterly certain that all this alien interest in her is a result of who she resembles, not who she is.

So the chase is on. Sara just wants to fly. The rulers of both the Gadi and the Dusan want her to be their queen. Or their chief prostitute. Or their slave. Opinions vary, but both Sara and her commanding officers are sure that whatever fate the locals have in store for Sara, it isn’t for her good. Or anything she would ever want.

What she thinks she wants is Kiernan Fyn, the alien she found on a deserted planet. After the Dusan crashed her ship. And it turns out, his ship. They might be made for each other, if he can manage to spill all the secrets that chain him to his old life.

And if Sara is willing to embrace her destiny.

Escape Rating A-: The Key is a huge, sprawling space opera of a book, so be prepared to wallow in the pleasure of exploring this universe for a good long time. Emphasis on both “good” and “long”.

girl gone nova by pauline baird jonesI’m annoyed at the “long” because I want to dive into the rest of the series (Girl Gone Nova is next) right this minute–and I’m booked up until late October at the earliest. DAMN!

Sara is a terrific heroine, not just because she seriously kicks ass, but because all of her actions, even the ones she isn’t conscious of, have incredibly good reasons behind them. I also loved that while she does fall “gooey in love” with Fyn, it doesn’t remove her brains, her reason or her agency. This is Sara’s story, and she’s not in it looking for Prince Charming. She’s in it to take care of herself and do the best job she can for her country.

Finding Prince Charming, or even Hot Alien sometimes Charming, is a bonus.

Speaking of Sara’s country, she really is a U.S. Air Force Captain. This series is set in a slightly alternate version of our world (well, back home it is) and does not seem to be very far removed (if at all) from our current timeframe. It’s as if the U.S. Government has a “black” project to solve Faster-Than-Light (FTL) travel right now, and it worked. Sara and her team’s pop culture references are very contemporary, which was fun and provided lots of perspective, but seems slightly off, unless that “black” project exists after all.

It feels like she should be just a bit further into our future than she is, or that our past should be different than it was.

While I like Fyn, a lot, he does fill the role of alpha male with big secret more than he stands out as an individual. He fills that role very well, but this is Sara’s show. It felt like I’ve met his type on Star Trek a million times–not that that is a bad thing.

What shone for me was Sara’s relationship with her commanders and crewmates. While she has deliberately suppressed much of what makes her “extra-special” in order to blend in, the depth of her commitment to her ship and to the crew that serves her feels right. She calls herself a fighter-puke and she presents herself as such. (Think Starbuck on BSG but with a bit more respect for the rules). She sees the crew and the Air Force as family, and it’s mutual.

If you like your space opera with romance, The Key is a fantastic way to get your fix. The way that Sara and Fyn meet is reminiscent of Cordelia and Aral in Shards of Honor. The role that Sara both fulfills and subverts reads a bit like Gillaine Davre in Linnea Sinclair’s Accidental Goddess. Those are terrific “fairy godmothers” for any SFR.

Website-button-01-300x200This review originally appeared in Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.
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The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 10-19-14

Sunday Post

The upcoming week’s schedule has changed at least three times so far, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it changes again before the week is out. I intended to review a book that I found so ponderous I couldn’t keep going; the thing was preventing me from reading anything good.

Cass has been guest reviewing her take on Rachel Bach’s Paradox series. I loved it when I reviewed it earlier this year. Cass pretty much seems to like them too, except for the romance bits (at least so far). I can’t wait to read her usually snarky take on Heaven’s Queen!

Spooktacular2013Current Giveaways:

$10 Amazon or B&N Gift Card in the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop

Winner Announcements:

The winner of the $10 Amazon Gift Card in the Books That Need More Attention Giveaway Hop is Sara S.
The winner of In Your Dreams by Kristan Higgins is Cheryl B.
The winner of The Moonlight Palace by Liz Rosenberg is Michelle W.

dirty kiss by rhys fordBlog Recap:

B+ Review by Cass: Honor’s Knight by Rachel Bach
B Review: Alex by Sawyer Bennett
Spooktacular Giveaway Hop
B+ Review: Dirty Kiss by Rhys Ford
B- Review: Olde School by Selah Janel
Stacking the Shelves (108)

 

 

 

key by pauline baird jonesComing Next Week:

The Key by Pauline Baird Jones (review)
The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah and Agatha Christie (review)
Heaven’s Queen by Rachel Bach (review by Cass)
Forcing the Spring by Jo Becker (review)
Rogue’s Paradise by Jeffe Kennedy (blog tour review)

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Stacking the Shelves (108)

Stacking the Shelves

I love it when the stacks are short and sweet!

StoryBundle logoA couple of notes about this week’s stack; I also bought the Urban Fantasy Bundle from the marvelous people at StoryBundle. This time round it’s a collection of urban fantasy stories in well-known series by equally well-known authors, including the Bigfoot Stories by Jim Butcher, and the first-time-ever ebook edition of Elizabeth Bear’s Whiskey and Water.

Also on the list is an oldie but hopefully still goodie. Open Road Media has created a terrific business by producing ebook editions of/for authors of contemporary classics who have managed to obtain their rights back. I read Leon Uris’ Exodus at my grandparents’ apartment when I was in high school; I still have the half-torn hardcover. But I loved it then, so I’m curious to see how well it wears. And of course the ebook copy won’t get any wear and tear at all.

For Review:
Idol of Bone (Looking Glass Gods #1) by Jane Kindred
Night Shift by Nalini Singh, Ilona Andrews, Lisa Shearing and Milla Vane

Purchased from Amazon:
Alaska Traveler: Dispatches from America’s Last Frontier by Dana Stabenow
Exodus by Leon Uris
Wildfire at Dawn (Firehawks #2) by M.L. Buchman

Borrowed from the Library:
City of the Lost by Stephen Blackmoore
Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality by Jo Becker

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Review: Olde School by Selah Janel

olde school by selah janelFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genre: fantasy
Series: Kingdom City Chronicles #1
Length: 428 pages
Publisher: Seventh Star Press
Date Released: March 18, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Kingdom City has moved into the modern era. Run by a lord mayor and city council (though still under the influence of the High King of The Land), it proudly embraces a blend of progress and tradition. Trolls, ogres, and other Folk walk the streets with humans, but are more likely to be entrepreneurs than cause trouble. Princesses still want to be rescued, but they now frequent online dating services to encourage lords, royals, and politicians to win their favor. The old stories are around, but everyone knows they’re just fodder for the next movie franchise. Everyone knows there’s no such thing as magic. It’s all old superstition and harmless tradition.

Bookish, timid, and more likely to carry a laptop than a weapon, Paddlelump Stonemonger is quickly coming to wish he’d never put a toll bridge over Crescent Ravine. While his success has brought him lots of gold, it’s also brought him unwanted attention from the Lord Mayor. Adding to his frustration, Padd’s oldest friends give him a hard time when his new maid seems inept at best and conniving at worst. When a shepherd warns Paddlelump of strange noises coming from Thadd Forest, he doesn’t think much of it. Unfortunately for him, the history of his land goes back further than anyone can imagine. Before long he’ll realize that he should have paid attention to the old tales and carried a club.

Darkness threatens to overwhelm not only Paddlelump, but the entire realm. With a little luck, a strange bird, a feisty waitress, and some sturdy friends, maybe, just maybe, Padd will survive to eat another meal at Trip Trap’s diner. It’s enough to make the troll want to crawl under his bridge, if he can manage to keep it out of the clutches of greedy politicians

My Review:

It’s not just that the hero of Olde School is a troll, but that he’s a troll caught on the cusp between traditional and modern that makes this story such an absolute hoot.

There’s a lot of marvelous commentary on the problems and perils of modernization, as well as a few digs at racism, sexism, luddite-ism and everything else under the sun.

The story as a whole is about the dangers of believing that you can get something for nothing. That magic is what we make it, and that wishing for the mythical “good old days” without knowing exactly what you are wishing for is a fast way to get dead. Or worse.

The snarky commentary about various fairy-tale princess cults was a hoot and a half all by itself.

But the story itself is a modern take on classic fairy tales. What makes it different is that all the characters are themselves fairy-tale creatures who have either stopped believing in magic or believe in it a little (a whole lot) much too much.

Paddlelump Stonemonger is a forward-thinking businesstroll in Kingdom City. His bridge over the Crescent Ravine has brought him a lot of well-earned gold, and the attention of the Mayor of Kingdom City. Mayor Addlelump is a conniving pixie who is running the city like it’s his own private business, lining the pockets of his highborn friends and taking away land and businesses from anyone who seems to be making lots of money.

Paddlelump is in the Mayor’s sights, but he seems to be everyone’s target.

His troll friends just tease him for not standing up and firing his new housemaid. Which he should, because she’s stealing from him and she’s set him up for murder. She wants his money, and she thinks she can get some prince from a tiny kingdom to kill him in order to free her from his supposed evil clutches. Which Padd doesn’t even have.

Flora,the barmaid at Padd’s favorite diner, wishes he did.

But there is much more clutching at Padd than just his lying, sneaky maidservant. There is old evil awake in the Thadd Forest, and Padd is the only one who can stop it. If someone can find a clue-by-four big enough to knock some sense into him before it is too late for him, for the kingdom, and possibly for the entire world.

The “Olde School” magic that has awakened in the forest wants flesh and blood sacrifices. And the princess cult members are totally programmed to believe that magic works. It just doesn’t work the way that they think it does, and certainly not for their benefit.

The moral of the story seems to be; “Be careful what you wish for, you might get it. Or someone might make you think you’ve gotten it, when they’ve really gotten you.”

Escape Rating B-: The world that the author has built is a marvelous work of invention. It’s not just that this is a fantasy confection, but everything hangs together really well.

On the other hand, the story takes about half the book to pull itself together and launch into the real action of the plot. The earlier build-up pays off in the second half, but the story takes a while to really get going.

The injected commentaries on our own modern world are funny but not overbearing. And it is an absolute scream when the pro-technology and pro-traditional voices both come from trolls. (Also that internet trolls are actually, well, trolls).

Unionized barmaids and maidservants just feels like an idea that needs to come to more fairy tale worlds.

At the same time, Olde School is very firmly in the tradition of contemporary fantasy, where everyone believes that the magic has gone out of the world, when in fact it hasn’t. So people have read all the wrong stories to have any knowledge of how to fight the evil that has reappeared out of the mythic past.

In some ways, Padd makes a great point-of-view character because he has so much self-doubt that he second-guesses everything, which means he mulls over a lot of stuff and we get introduced to the world through his mulling.

On the other hand, there are times when Padd seems thick as a brick, even for a troll, and we want to hit him with the proverbial clue-by-four. Hard, multiple times and with extreme prejudice.

His less modern troll friends are sometimes more on the ball than his supposedly forward-thinking self. But the way that they continually rib him about all his short-comings, yet stand with him with the chips are down is wonderful. Also snarky and funny.

As a fairy tale story that owes way more to the grimmer original versions of the Brothers Grimm than anything ever created through Disneyfication, Olde School is a lot of fun.

TLC

This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.
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Review: Dirty Kiss by Rhys Ford

dirty kiss by rhys fordFormat read: ebook borrowed from the library
Formats available: ebook, paperback, audiobook
Genre: M/M Romance, Romantic Suspense
Series: Cole McGinnis #1
Length: 216 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Date Released: July 1, 2011
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

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. The death of Jae-Min’s cousin 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.

My Review:

In the story, Dirty Kiss is a place, a surprisingly not-seedy nightclub where men in the Los Angeles Asian community can pretend that being gay is their normal life, when in fact they are pretending to be straight, at least on the outside and in front of their families.

It’s also a metaphor for the way that multiple families feel about the gay members of their families, and how some traditionalists believe that being gay is transmitted, as opposed to being born in.

And this is a family story, about the ties that bind, and the ties that strangle, both literally and figuratively. Both the protagonists in this story are reacting to their families and dealing with the reaction from them.

Last but not least, there is a deadly plot in motion to kill everyone who might know one particular family’s dirty secret, a plot that may victimize both the protagonists.

Cole McGinnis doesn’t act as though his being gay is a dirty secret. In fact, it is not a secret at all, something that has cost him more than he ever expected to pay. His Japanese/Irish Catholic father has cut off all ties with him, but Cole maintains a relationship with his brother Mike. And dad gets regular updates about Cole from his brother.

But Cole is a former police officer. His police partner shot and killed his domestic partner, then turned the gun on himself. His best friend and his lover were taken from him in an instant, and he still doesn’t know why his partner snapped. He just knows that he has both the physical and the emotional scars left to deal with. He’s pretty good about taking care of the physical scars; the emotional ones, not so much.

After the settlement from the police department left him much more than solvent, Cole took up private investigation as a way of exercising his desire to solve mysteries AND still have a reason for getting out of bed every morning. It mostly works.

The case his brother hands him should be an easy one. A Korean-American family wants someone to be certain that their only son really did commit suicide, even if he did it within the embarrassing confines of the Dirty Kiss nightclub.

All, of course, is not as it seems. The more Cole digs, the less likely it seems that Kim Hyun-Shik killed himself. Especially when everybody (perhaps that should be every body) who might possibly have any information for Cole winds up dead.

The person who seems to have as many lives as his own cat is Kim Jae-Min, the deceased’s cousin. Jae-Min, treated by his family as the ultimate poor relation, seems to know more about his cousin’s business, his cousin’s life, and the Dirty Kiss club more than is good for him if he wants to survive.

But something about Jae-Min draws Cole out of his self-imposed isolation, even though it is obvious to Cole that Jae-Min is keeping no end of crucial secrets to himself. His continuous lies of omission should damn any relationship before it starts, but Cole just gets more intrigued.

Although if Cole doesn’t put it all together soon, their relationship will end with both of their deaths, as a murderer gets away.

Escape Rating B+: Dirty Kiss is a marvelous character-driven story; things happen because the characters are fully developed and can’t act other than the way they must.

A big part of the appeal of the story is Cole’s first-person perspective; we see the world through his eyes, and hear his thoughts. He’s a confused, sad and slightly tormented person with a sarcastic sense of humor. He tells it like it is, except when he tries to look into his own grief. Then he does what most of us do and tries to pretend it’s not there.

His circle of friends and family is fascinating. His relationship with his brother Mike is complex and filled with a sense of love and obligation on both sides. They drive each other crazy, and sometimes they don’t like each other much, but they are both aware of how much they love each other.

Cole’s relationship with his best friend, the retired police officer Bobby. Bobby is from a different generation of cop, one who stayed in the closet for the sake of his career. Now that he’s out of the police force, he is definitely out of the closet. There is irony in their relationship, that Cole was more out when he was a cop but is much less in-your-face about it than the formerly secretive Bobby.

Every PI needs someone to mind the office, and Cole has Claudia. an African American grandmother who bosses Cole around every bit as much as she does her sons and grandsons. There’s love and caring and a lot of pushy snark; Claudia calls everything like she sees it and doesn’t take BS from anyone, not even her employer.

Jae-Min is a mysterious young man. He’s beautiful, but he also keeps a lot of secrets and hides a lot of scars. His whole life is dependent on his continuing to pretend that he’s either not gay or that it is a phase he is going through. It’s not just that his mother and sister will cut him off if he comes out, it’s that he is supporting them and if he comes out, they will feel obligated to refuse his help. And Jae-Min really is from the poor branch of the family and his sister and mother absolutely need his assistance.

You would think that a PI would want a relationship where there is honesty, but Cole seems happy with the mystery that is Jae-Min. The romantic part of the story ends in a Happy for Now, because Jae-Min feels obligated to his family.

One of the funniest characters in the story is Jae-Min’s cat Neko. Neko means “cat” in Korean, so Jae-Min has named his cat, Cat. But Neko is a force in her own right, converting the formerly cat-skeptical Cole into a reluctant but effective cat-servant.

Cats rule.

queer romance month

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.
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Spooktacular Giveaway Hop

Spooktacular Giveaway Hop 2013

Welcome to the 5th Annual Spooktacular Giveaway Hop, hosted by I am a Reader, Not a Writer!

The spooks are back in town. Pumpkins are everywhere and Halloween candy is filling the store shelves.

We’re in a new apartment this year, so we wonder whether we will get trick-or-treaters. We also wonder whether or not our lack of knowledge in this area will affect our purchases of Halloween candy! (There are no calories in those little, teeny, tiny chocolate bars, are there?)

living dead dollsMy Halloween book this year is going to be Duck, Duck Ghost by Rhys Ford. At first, I was planning to review it earlier, but when the doll heads tried to smother one of the heroes, my creepy meter went off the scale.

Attack of the Killer Baby Dolls! Doesn’t that sound like a terrific title for a scary movie?

In honor (or memorial, or creep-festing) of Halloween, I will be giving away a $10 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card (winner’s choice) to one lucky entrant.

May all your reads be haunting, whether in a spooky way or not!

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For more chances to win more great prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on the hop:

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