Formats available: ebook, paperback, audiobook
Genre: M/M Romance, Romantic Suspense
Series: Cole McGinnis #2
Length: 234 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Date Released: September 28, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository
Loving Kim Jae-Min isn’t always easy: Jae is gun-shy about being openly homosexual. Ex-cop turned private investigator Cole McGinnis doesn’t know any other way to be. Still, he understands where Jae is coming from. Traditional Korean men aren’t gay—at least not usually where people can see them.
But Cole can’t spend too much time unraveling his boyfriend’s issues. He has a job to do. When a singer named Scarlet asks him to help find Park Dae-Hoon, a gay Korean man who disappeared nearly two decades ago, Cole finds himself submerged in the tangled world of rich Korean families, where obligation and politics mean sacrificing happiness to preserve corporate empires. Soon the bodies start piling up without rhyme or reason. With every step Cole takes toward locating Park Dae-Hoon, another person meets their demise—and someone Cole loves could be next on the murderer’s list.
One of the things I love about this series is that way that the author starts each book with a seemingly unrelated short case that has a way higher humor component than the rest of the story (not that Cole doesn’t have a fine line of snark of his very own).
But the opening bit is like the funny version of a James Bond film; the opener doesn’t seem to have a relationship to the rest of the story; in fact it’s mostly played for laughs. But later, the events come back to bite Cole in the butt–and not in a good way.
In Dirty Kiss (reviewed here), it was two little old ladies in fetish wear chasing him with a shotgun. In Dirty Secret, the story starts with a guy with his dick in a glass bottle. Of course, not either one of our heroes, they’re both too smart, too sober, and a little too grown up to do something quite that stupid.
The scene is funny as hell. Cole’s running internal (and external) commentary on the idiocy made me laugh out loud.
Cole’s voice frequently does, but he is just as often laughing at himself in chagrin. Not this time. This was just plain hilarious.
Another thing that I love about this series is that it provides an introduction into the tight-knit South Korean/American community, and in some ways shows at least how a fictional slice of that community both does and doesn’t adapt to living in the U.S. While Cole’s on-again/off-again lover Jae-Min lives his life in fear that he will be outed, Cole is a fish out of water in a world that is not his own.
But part of the heartbreak for both Cole and Jae-Min is that Cole’s very westernized sensibilities let him feel free enough to come out of the closet as a young man, it didn’t mean that his family didn’t reject him every bit as much. And that he isn’t still feeling the pain, in spite of creating a new family around himself.
Cole wants Jae-Min to take the same leap he has, and has a difficult time dealing with Jae-Min not being ready to give up his family responsibilities for love; especially since Jae-Min hasn’t got much experience of love sticking around.
A lot of people who get near Cole seem to get shot. That includes Cole himself, another one of Jae-Min’s fears. With Cole’s track record, there’s a justifiable worry that Jae-Min will throw in his lot completely with Cole, only to have Cole get himself killed.
The “dirty secret” in this story is both Jae-Min’s justifiable fear of telling his family that he is gay, and the story of a man who was presumed dead 20 years ago, and who seems to have either disappeared or been killed because he was also gay. At first, the question seems to be whether he walked away or is at the bottom of a river somewhere.
As the case progresses, the question revolves around who is willing to kill to keep the man’s secrets. Because there are suddenly a LOT of dead bodies left in the wake of this old missing person’s case.
Escape Rating B+: If Cole were a writer, he’d definitely be a pantser. He doesn’t just do everything by the seat of his pants, it often seems like he’s making stuff up on the fly as he’s pulling them on. I don’t mean this in a sexual context (not that that doesn’t happen too) but because Cole gets ideas and theories the way that the rest of us mortals do; at odd moments, apropos occasionally of nothing, and just as often wrong as right. He keeps moving towards his goal, but his plans usually go to hell in a handbasket.
And he usually doesn’t get the job done without someone (including himself) taking a bullet. He often figures out he’s on the right track by getting someone shot at, or by following the trail of bodies.
It’s been mentioned that it seems like every Korean that comes to him with a case is both gay and sleeping with his cousin. While this is unlikely in the real world, detective series often compress communities. I think it’s a bigger problem that Cole and everyone he contacts gets shot at in every case. He’s going to start losing more friends, one way or another, if this keeps up.
The situation reminds me of small-town mystery series, where the homicide rate appears higher than the population could possibly support. (Would you want to live in Midsomer County, England? The residents drop like flies.)
Because this particular story reaches into the rich end of the Korean old line families, we see the way that fortunes are preserved and family honor is protected among the rich and relatively famous. The story also offers us a lot more info about the fine line that Jae-Min and Cole’s friend Scarlet must straddle in order to have some life with her lover.
Scarlet, a transvestite, is not welcome at any family functions for her lover Hyung. In formal settings, he is alone or his wife comes from South Korea. The rest of the time, his hired bodyguards protect Scarlet’s every move. And there’s a poignancy that for all his money, this life is the best they can manage to have, if he is to keep the standing that protects them both.
The case that Cole is hired to solve is as convoluted as usual. Also as usual, he starts out thinking it will be simple, and it turns out to be anything but.
This one ends with an emotional whammy that will tear at your heart and make you dive for the next book, Dirty Laundry.